One of the most surreal experiences of my life was when I participated in a Christian conference located in a hotel that had innocently booked a drag queen conference to happen simultaneously in the same facilities.

On the one hand you had the people that attend a very conservative Christian conference. The participants may not have thought much of it, but they were a funny looking crowd. Most of the men wore dark suits in this very warm part of the country, and many of the women had long dresses on and had buns in their hair.

Most of the men wore dark suits in this very warm part of the country, and many of the women had long dresses on and had buns in their hair.

The younger people thought they looked pretty hip, but if there’s one guy that you can pick out of a crowd, it’s an evangelical youth pastor. Tipped hair, pegged jeans, screenprint tees, greek and hebrew scripture tats, etc. They were the exception that broke the rule and from the outside you could definitely tell they belonged at the conservative Christian conference.

This conference crowd spent a lot of time sitting and eating. They would shuffle past the hotel bar and enter into seminar rooms to sit and hear someone talk, and then they would shuffle back out, never even ordering a Diet Coke in the bar, and find their way to the buffet restaurants to gorge on biscuits and gravy, honied hams, and barbecue chicken.

On the other hand you had a very raucous and rowdy Drag Queen Conference. The participants may not have thought much of it, but they were a funny looking crowd. Most of them were men who were wearing women’s clothing. Some were born men but moving on (evidenced by the height plus the heels and the hair in all the wrong places and the best giveaway: the Adam’s apple). And of course the people you can most often easily pick out of the crowd are the transgendered.

Not all drag queens are in transition–but some of these were, going from male physical features to female, via surgery or drugs. From a distance this wasn’t clear–you would think it was just a lot of really tall overdressed women, but as you got closer you could tell something was up.

as you got closer you could tell something was up.

This conference crowd spent a lot of time dancing and drinking. They would shuffle past the seminar rooms and pool (it seems their membership commitments didn’t allow mixed bathing). They would then enter the bar to gorge themselves on cosmopolitans and pomegranate martinis. Eventually a dance party would break out and I don’t care how many surgeries or pills you take, it’s hard for someone born and raised a man to ever learn to dance like a woman when drunk. Dead giveaway.

One time I remember getting on an elevator with an elderly couple from the conference. Two of those from the drag queen conference ran after us saying “hold that elevator” (in a husky male smoker’s voice with a faux softness added.) The elderly couple was going to let the doors shut, but I put out an arm like we all do in this situation typically. On walked two Drag Queens. One of them was African-American, and his hair had been teased out to practically touch the ceiling of the elevator. He was a tall guy already, but the heels and hair and purple miniskirt made him the least incognito person in the whole city that day, I’m sure of it. He stood out like a rainbow-colored windmill in a field of soybeans.

The elderly couple tried to melt into the paneling at the back of the elevator. What ensued was one of the most silent and awkward elevator rides I’ve been on in my life. As they got off the elevator the tall one said with a female affected wave, “Thanks for holding the ride, people!”

But it turned out I was getting off on the same floor. They acknowledged that moment with a look–like we all do in that situation, since they had pretty much said goodbye already, but now we had to walk down the hallway together. So I asked, “You having a fun week at your get together?” The tall one stopped and looked down at me, showing a big toothy gleaming smile, one tooth gold: “Oh, same old, same old for us girls! Pretty boring!” The other one punched his arm laughingly, like a couple of football buddies would.

I said, “Oh, well mine has been pretty exciting, believe it or not.”

He played along: “Perhaps we should crash your party tomorrow then? Sounds fun.”

“I can guarantee you it would be a memory for us all,” I replied. We all laughed.

He didn’t show up the next day to sit and eat all day with us. I never saw him again in fact. It did get me wondering about the image of God, and the pursuit of contentment in our own skins.

It did get me wondering about the image of God, and the pursuit of contentment in our own skins.

I wondered this: perhaps we need each other. Perhaps we need the drag queen to show up sometimes. Perhaps we need the old conservative couple to crash the drag queen party too. I know that each of us bears the image of God as individuals–but perhaps we all do collectively as well. Perhaps “humanity” is made in the image of God, not just David, not just “Stephanie” and “Mickie,” nor even “Henry” and “Lois.”

I’m pretty sure that the conservatives in my conference all thought those drag queens were missing the point of life–seeking some kind of identity in the wrong place by doing what they were doing. I agree. I’ve seen it so many times: people pursue some alternate form of identity so they can find their place in the world. You identify with some sub-group and it makes you feel more human–for a time.

But here’s the thing: I wonder if those from my conference miss the point too. Perhaps we find our identity in that subgroup too–if we are an alternative form of living as well–and our niche feels “right” because it defines us.

Perhaps we find our identity in that subgroup too–if we are an alternative form of living as well–and our niche feels “right” because it defines us.

Since that drag queen conservative Christian conference I’ve tried to ensure that I speak to each person I meet with this in mind: this is a child of God, and one who is likely missing the point. This is a human being who is likely finding their identity in the wrong source, whether it’s as obvious as a drag queen or as subtle as a controlling leader of a local church.

Instead, we are children of God, all of us. We are made in his image, all of us. And instead we might need each other–and the light and truth of Jesus Christ–to be defined by him alone. I know this: whether you show up for the first time in wingtips or size thirteen stiletto heels you’re only going to find contentment in Christ.

 

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