How drag queens taught me to embrace my PCOS and my femininity
When I was 22 years old, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If you aren’t familiar with PCOS, chances are someone close to you might be — according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it’s estimated that 1 in 10 women have the gynecological disorder. And PCOS comes with some really crappy symptoms — irregular periods, fatigue, and trouble losing weight, to name a few.
I have had all of those symptoms and more. But one symptom really did a number on my self-esteem: hirsutism or excess facial hair. And I’m not talking the little peach fuzz that we all get. Hirsutism makes women grow male pattern facial hair on the chin, jawline, and neck.
My self-esteem was non-existent. I dressed plainly, avoiding unique hairstyles or colorful clothing for fear that it would draw attention to me. I didn’t get pedicures or manicures. In my mind, those things were reserved for “real” women.
I know now that I wasn’t being fair to myself because of a narrow-minded concept of femininity. But at the time, I was convinced that watching other women strut their stuff and living vicariously through them was the closest I’d get to feeling confident.
I was always infatuated with the show’s host, RuPaul. I first saw him when I was five years old through his role as sweet school counselor Ms. Cummings in the warped-but-hilarious A Very Brady Sequel. She was un-clockable — a term used to describe a queen so feminine in appearance that they look like a “real” woman. To my little eyes, she was like no other woman I’d seen before.
When I got older and realized that Ms. Cummings was really RuPaul, and RuPaul is really a man, I was blown. away. How could someone adopt the mannerisms of a woman so well and exude such confidence and femininity?
I’ve been hooked on Drag Race since its premiere back in 2009. Season after season, so many beautiful queens display *ahem* Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent on the runway.
I watched the show religiously, hearing the constant messages of self-love and positivity aimed at the viewers. In fact, RuPaul ends each episode with this mantra:
If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?
Through so many life events, including my own wedding, I continued to put minimal effort into my appearance. With a spouse now in the picture, my anxiety about my appearance skyrocketed. It was a never ending cycle of wanting confidence, but feeling like I didn’t deserve it.
I finally realized why my concepts of femininity and confidence were wrong after binge-watching RPDR one night.
Behind each fabulous queen was a man with a story. Some got into drag for the fashion and glamour, others for the fame. But I noticed a lot of them looked for sources of confidence and strength that they otherwise lacked.
Ru was right all along. I had to love myself. To do that, I had to tell myself three things:
Committing these facts to memory have unlocked a whole new me. I couldn’t get rid of my drab wardrobe fast enough. I experiment with different hair colors, lengths, and textures. Manicures and pedicures are now a must.
RuPaul recently won an Emmy for Drag Race, and he deserves it. Ru and the 100 queens who have appeared on the show have inspired and encouraged so many to sashay down the runway — or hallway, in my case.
I proudly confess that drag queens have made me a better woman, and one who knows her worth.
From a woman who has struggled with self-confidence to anyone dealing with the same, I have one thing to say: