I was doing some sleuthing online and came across this clip from the 1968 documentary "The Queen" directed by Frank Simon, which features Flawless Sabrina preparing for a drag queen contest in New York City.
What strikes me most about this clip is the scene where the contestants gather in one of their apartments to go over some logistics. The camera continuously rolls, showing the queens enter the space and interact with one another.
When watching this clip I teared up. It felt like a home movie, like I was watching my friends and I hanging out. The rawness of seeing the men sitting, looking around, joking amongst themselves, and sharing everyday experiences allows me to place myself in the scene. Knowing how it is in my queer network, I can only guess at the intermingling relationships between the people sizing each other up in the room: who has slept with who, flirted with who, dated, just met, heard things about, etc.
I also think about how queer spaces were so limited at this time, so the some of the only safe places to meet would be in the tiny living room of someone's apartment. Public places existed but were often closed down. People moved from their apartments. Queer space was temporary and shifting, safe space often hard to come by.
Morsels of history such as this reveal to me the complex legacies of oppression, pain, resistance and triumph that lay the groundwork for my queer experience today. My agency has been built, brick by brick on the backs of queers past. This knowledge fills me with a richer sense of self, culture, new heroes, and most importantly an obligation to these queer pioneers who have paved the way to my current empowerment. It is even more satisfying because This is information that I've had to seek out on my own - it wasn't taught to me in middle school and high school.
I've tried to spend my time in school gathering knowledge, being critical of what I'm finding, and reclaiming queer history.
The following is a clip from later in the movie featuring the legendary Crystal LaBeija and her response to the most likely shady results of the contest. Never fuck with a drag queen.