15 - Austin Vogel
Colorado Springs, CO
Drag Performer/Sinister Sister - Alexandra Good
With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know….
“The funny thing is that it wasn’t until just before my Sophomore year of high school…. Well, let’s put it this way, in 5th grade I knew I was different, but I could not pinpoint what it was. I just knew it was off. It wasn’t until high school that I started figuring out more what it was.”
On his coming out experience…
“I was 16 when I came out, and I came out to my girlfriend at the time… That was an interesting situation. It was very emotionally overwhelming coming out, because I pretty much just discovered that I was in fact attracted to men… and just started accepting it, but I didn’t want to wait so I just came out, as I came out to myself.
With my social circle, surprisingly not a single person left… not a single person moved. They were very uneasy… they weren’t really sure how to understand it because I was the only gay kid in school. So it was very unusual for as small as my town was.
My mom... she could’ve taken it better, but she still loved me. I came out to her unwillingly… she forced it out of me. We got into an argument, and finally it just kind of came out. She cried… not because I was gay, but because she wanted grandchildren and thought she would have to wait longer. She was very uneasy with it, but that’s also because she was uneducated about it. It took time… she educated herself… she really tried to learn as much as she could. She asked me 500 questions every time I came home from school. I felt like I was at an interview! She really stepped up to the plate. My step dad… we left him in the dark for a little bit. He had made homophobic comments throughout growing up… Not anything intentional to me, he didn’t know what was going on… he was just in that mindset because he never left that town. It’s a small 2300 population, super small Ohio town… that nobody knows anything but that, if they’ve never left. And anyone who has left, has yet to come back. We told him almost a year later… he kind of ignored it, wasn’t upset, but was definitely uncomfortable. He did not step up like my mom… he just let it be there without acknowledging it. Then when I turned 18, my last year of high school, he came up to me, ‘I love you the way you are, I hate it, but I accept it…’ That was the biggest milestone for him, ever. It was really nice to hear that from him, especially for as cold of a person her could be when he was uncomfortable.”
Biggest fears or concern about coming out…
“I was terrified of being thrown out of my house… because I knew who I am as a person, and I would never forgive for something of that sort. There’s a certain way that I believe people should be, and there are certain things that I find unacceptable, and that is one of them… because, trust me, a solid 6 months after I came out, it was the most awkward, tension filled house… we fought a lot, but they never gave up. I could’ve fought with my mom for the rest of my life, and that would’ve been fine… as long as she didn’t give up. I didn’t want to see her hurt, and I didn’t want me to have that type of anger towards someone who I was so close with at the time, and still am very close with.”
First celebrity/teacher/friend crush?
“Unfortunately, yes… and I know if Autumn Quinn ever reads this she will give me crap for it, but Zac Efron was it for me for the longest time. But it was always a secret. I would just be like, ‘I wonder what he’s doing today?’ Of course, it was High School Musical… at the time I was all about it.”
Favorite thing about our community?
“Being understood… knowing that if I just feel like wearing heels that night, the only comment I’m gonna get is, ‘Where did you get those?’, or ‘I love those!’ Knowing that I can go out wearing a hoodie and jeans, and no one says anything… or I can go out just myself, with no makeup and a sparkly sequined dress, and no one is going to blink an eye at you. You can be weird, you can be abstract, you can be crazy… or you can just wear jeans and a t-shirt… we don’t care. Just be you. As long as you’re being you, the community is always there with the door open.”
Frustrations within the community...
“...There’s not as much love as there always should be. There’s things that in the LGBTQ+ community that people get blinded by, and they forget that we are each other's’ support system. You don’t have to like each other, but you still have to respect each other. We have all had to go through some type of crap… and that person might be acting that way because of it. Or maybe that’s just how they are… like I said, you don’t have to like it. Just having respect for each other…”
What is one thing you would tell your younger self?
“Just be you! I was so worried, even after I came out, about keeping my masculinity. Really just trying to blend in and keeping my head down. I would only get super into my feminine side, only if someone would anger me… or try to bully me about it. You see me now, I’m a drag queen for f*ck-sake… I dress like a woman 3 days a week! I was just so terrified to just be me… I wanted my nails painted, and was too afraid to do it. Now, I have acrylic nails half of the time. It took me until I move to Colorado to even explore my feminine side. Just get over it! Flux with your gender, wear what you want, buy what you want… if you wanna wear a crop top, wear a crop top! I was always so scared to do that, I wish I would’ve broken more boundaries in school.”
Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or don’t have a community to be a part of?
“You always have a community to be a part of! Sometimes you have to find your community… it took me a moment to find my community here. But when I found them… it was life changing. At first you’re gonna feel alone… that’s how we all been. We’ve all been at that point, because when you’re in grade school, and in high school, you come out… there not gonna be nearly as big of a community to discover until after school… I hate to say it, but unfortunately the LGBT+ bar scene does bring a lot of us together. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where we keep it though… For example, we work outside of it frequently… you make friends, you meet people… No matter what, you will ALWAYS have a community... You just have to find where yours is hiding!”
What in your life are you most proud of?
“Picking myself up from the darkest place I’ve ever been, and putting myself where I am today. We were talking earlier about how a lot of members of the community will do a major body change - like I just shaved my head - but if it wasn’t for everything before, I wouldn’t have done it and still have a smile on my face right now. Over the past few days, I’ve been reflecting back on where I’ve been, and how I picked my life up in 5 days, packed everything up in my car… drove 24 hours across the country… and planted myself… thinking, ‘We’ll see what happens!’... Best decision of my life! It was really hard when I got here, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat… because I have my community here… I have my friends here… I have a great career, a job that I love going to every single day… I’m never really upset at being at work. I love being there. I’m proud of realizing that I had to start over, because it made a world of difference.”
With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, what’s one thing you would change if you had the power?
“There’s a lot I would like to change… The biggest thing I’d want to change is a lot of people were shocked and upset by this last election, and I was not… Live in a small town, and you’ll see exactly how the world is right now. Cities won’t tell you how the world is. I’ve lived in multiple cities, and multiple small towns… and big cities, I feel, are blind a lot of the time. The people who make our decisions live in big cities…
Everyone just said, okay I guess this is what we’re doing… we’re all going to be negative now. It really became a hateful world once the election happened… and it’s been downhill since. I hate to say it under our current presidency, but we’re getting better. There’s things that are changing that we all hate still, but as a society, we aren’t as hateful as we first were that first year.... At the end of the day, no matter who you are, no matter your nationality, your sexual orientation, your disability, however you grew up, however you are now… none of it f*cking matters…. We’re all going to the same grave. We’re all going to die. And some of us will have a legacy, and some of us won’t… and that’s okay, because we lived our life. And as long as you know you lived your life the best that you could, then you should be at peace… Try to be positive all around. Be love.”