In a state where marriage is defined as being strictly between a man and women, and components of the state's legal structure continue to favor heterosexual partnersnips, gay and lesbian residents came together Saturday at Freddie's Beach Bar for the second Miss Gay Arlington pageant.
Those who came expecting drama queens and divas or a grown-up version of "Toddlers and Tiaras" were in for a surprise. Throughout the four rounds of competition, which required four costume changes, a talent performance and question-and-answer session, the prospective drag beauty queens of Arlington brought the glitz and glam, but held the drama.
"I'm excited to crown the next Miss Gay Arlington, because it means that we'll get a bigger family," said Diamond D. Bottoms, who held the 2011 title. "I love this event. Gay, straight, whatever you are — this night is about community and the pageant brings everyone together. For me, being Miss Gay Arlington was about more then the title. It's not all bar shows. It's about getting out and connecting with people from the community."
Organized by the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, which formed in the 1980s to advocate for gay and lesbian rights and give an underrepresented group a voice in local affairs, the Miss Gay Arlington Pageant was started in part to encourage younger people to get involved in advocacy.
"The idea was to create the Miss Gay Arlington pageant to create buzz in the community and attract a group that we've had difficulty drawing in," said Daniel Hayes, former Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance president, who came up with the idea of the pageant. "We needed to have something more social for the younger community, and if you go to drag shows you see that the majority of people who go are under 35. I also think drag has become more mainstream in the public eye in the last few years, so it's an event that the wider community can enjoy."
For contestants, the pageant offered the chance to test their drag personas at a smaller venue. Two competitors for the 2012 title, Hope B. Childs and Stardust, had performed in drag shows but had never competed for a pageant title.
"I've been preparing for this for months," said Stardust, who was the winner of this year's title and by day is known as James Potter. "With drag shows, your costume can be missing a sequin, and it's OK because the light is low and you aren't being judged as strictly. But here, every detail matters."
Preparing the costumes and accessories necessary to participate in a drag pageant can cost thousands of dollars, but Stardust was able to keep her budget near $500 dollars by hand sewing several of the outfits.
In the first round of the pageant competition, Stardust impressed the audience with an elaborate red sequined costume.
If you weren't able to make this year's pageant, Freddie's Beach Bar plans to host another contest next spring. Organizers hope that will be the biggest yet. Potential participants have 12 months to prepare and, if the contest follows the same rules, it will be open to all who portray a female persona.