by Logan Lynn.
The contestants for Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race have been announced and our very own Jinkx Monsoon is one of them! Jinkx’s drag roots started at SMYRC, one of Q Center‘s LGBTQ Youth & Young Adult programs and drop-in center, and I had the chance to chat with her this week about her experience as a former SMYRC youth-turned-TV-star! Find our interview just below the videos…
Watch Jinkx Monsoon’s “Meet The Queens” video for RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 here:
Watch Jinx Monsoon performing “Jinkxalicious” at SMYRC Drag Night (circa 2007) here:
Logan Lynn: Hey Jinkx! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today! First off, Condragulations on your casting for Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Was this the first time you had tried out for the show?
Jinkx Monsoon: This was the first time I tried out. I had been considering auditioning since season 2, but it just never felt right. When I watched Season 4 however, I became really inspired. Not only was I inspired by the intensely unique Sharon Needles, but also by Chad Michaels who competed the entire time with class and compassion. The season 4 cast contained so much variety and individuality, that I finally said to myself “why not go for it?” I woke up one morning and it just felt like it was what I had to do. From that moment on, I went full force with my audition material and I was determined to do my damnedest to get on that show.
LL: Ah, yes. Determination strikes again! In recent years you have made quite a name for yourself in the Seattle drag scene. Would you say that your drag career began at SMYRC’s drag night?
JM: My Drag career most definitely began at SMYRC. Ages ago, when I was a SMYRC youth, I liked to get involved with organizing some the community events. One year for our Queer Winter Formal, the theme was “Fairy Tale” or something of the like. I had put together a small drag show to happen in the middle of the dance and I decided that I would dress up as the Queen of Hearts (one of my first times in true drag) for the event. The response was quite positive and I felt empowered to see where this could go. I started doing drag more and more at SMYRC for open mic. nights and other events and soon I was a full fledged baby drag queen. I had to have a name, so I used my SMYRC nickname: Jinkx. And it just seemed to work. Soon I was performing at SMYRC, The Escape (The all ages gay night club) and at little events here and there. But SMYRC was my home. It gave me a place to experiment with drag in a loving, supportive, judgement free zone.
LL: That is such a special experience! What brought you to SMYRC initially?
JM: I came out at a very early age. I was about 14 in middle school when I came out and I had a couple queer friends who were in high school and were SMYRC regulars. I told them I was gay and I was feeling alone because I was like, the only gay boy at my middle school. They took me to SMYRC so I could meet other queer youth my age. This was WAY back when SMYRC was in a very small space on Burnside. It was like going down the Rabbit Hole for me. I remember feel like I was in a whole different city when I was hanging out in a room full of kids going through the same stuff I was going through. When SMYRC moved to their space on Belmont, I lived just ten minutes away, so I started going to SMYRC every day it was open. It became my home away from home.
LL: Coming out that young can be tough. I was also 14 when I made the leap. In retrospect, I’m glad it happened so early, but the years it took to get here were rough at times. How was growing up queer for you overall?
JM: Growing up queer for me had its ups and downs. You see, I was just an awkward goofy kid in general. I wasn’t necessarily “popular.” I felt very different from other kids my age. I didn’t share any of the same interests as other boys my age. I preferred dance over sports, I preferred reading about Greek mythology over comic books. “Death Becomes Her” was my favorite movie from age 7 on… So when I realized I was gay I felt even more alienated. At school, I would get picked on by a lot of the other kids. Through elementary school I was picked on for not being good at “boy stuff.” In Middle School, I really embraced my feminine/androgynous side in my fashion sense and self expression, and in High School I refused to hide who I was. I was slammed into lockers, called “faggot”, threatened, and ridiculed almost every time I spoke in class, all through my Freshman year. But I had one thing that can really make a difference in a queer kids life: A supportive family. My Grandmother and My Aunt, aka my guardian angels, never let me lose sight of who I was or who I wanted to be. They never failed to encourage and support me throughout my adolescence. My mom, initially was worried about my safety and well being when i came out at such a young age, but soon she saw that it had to be that way. That I could never be happy keeping myself all bottled up, so she too was very supportive.
LL: God, I’m so sorry that all happened to you. The things we go through just to be ourselves, huh?!
JM: I was very lucky to have such a supportive family. Through going to SMYRC I realized just HOW lucky I was. So many of my SMYRC friends didn’t have the same kind of home life. Many of them had either become estranged from their families after coming out, or weren’t allowed to talk about who they truly were around their family. But through SMYRC they built a new, chosen family. They had a place where they were loved and appreciated and celebrated for their individuality. That’s why I believe in SMYRC. That’s why I got so involved when I was a youth there – to help provide a supportive loving environment for those who didn’t have that at their own homes.
LL: That’s so touching! How do you think SMYRC play into your experience of becoming yourself as you are today?
JM: SMYRC taught me one of the best lessons I’ve ever been taught and that was to embrace and get to know ALL different types of people. They taught me tolerance… but beyond that, they taught me RESPECT for people from all corners of expression. In my 4 or 5 years as a SMYRC youth, I met a myriad of extremely unique and wonderful people. I interacted with people I don’t know how I would have ever even met in any other circumstance. From drag queens to transitioning queens, to people from ALL OVER the world. I had been raised in such a homogenous, whit washed community… SMYRC taught me the true beauty of the rainbow. That it’s when all these different rays of light line up together, they make something spectacular. And one of a kind.
LL: What would the world be like if programs and services like SMYRC were to suddenly disappear?
JM: I would be heartbroken if there were no more places like SMYRC. In cities where programs like SMYRC exist, those queer kids feel like the luckiest queer kids in the world! I’ve talked to so many queer youth who grew up in places without a program like SMYRC and when I tell them my stories, they tell me how much pain, confusion, and loneliness they could have avoided if they had a place like SMYRC. Portland is a very liberal and relatively safe town to be a queer nowadays and it STILL needs SMYRC. There are still kids with no where else to go… Now imagine what it must be like in cities that are on the opposite side of the spectrum as Portland. The need for a place like SMYRC must be through the roof!!! Even though there’s not a SMYRC in every city, the fact that SMYRC and programs like it exist gives hope to all the queer youth of America that there is a way through the hard times.
LL: What message do you want all LGBTQ youth & young adults coming of age now to know?
JM: I want queer youth to always remember who they are and who they want to be. Remember the great strength that you possess. To come out at an early age is no simple task, it takes immense courage and confidence to be a queer youth. Don’t ever forget that. There will be hard times and there will be bad days, but don’t let the hardships you face over shadow the strength that you posses. Through your hardest moments remember there’s light at the end of the tunnel and empower yourself to make it there; and never forget the beauty of a rainbow.
LL: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
JM: I would not be who I am or where I am if it weren’t for SMYRC. I cannot stress this enough. America needs places where queer youth can get the kind of fellowship, education, and empowerment that they can’t always get at school or in their community. It is invaluable that every youth, queer or straight, has a place that they feel they are accepted for who they are and SMYRC and programs like SMYRC provide that to many many youth. Also, be sure to watch me on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 this January 2013. I am the FIRST Drag Queen from the Northwest to go on that show an represent us kooky bohemians living here in the great Northwest and I promise I represent us well! Thanks so much Logan!
LL: Thank YOU, darling! We’re all rooting for you!
If you are interested in writing for QBlog’s Queer Voices program, please send an email with a sample of your work to QBlog@pdxQcenter.org