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Becoming Clitaurus

John Francis became a woman, and instantly felt fat.

Hello, gorgeous! Photo: Rob Jones

A few weeks ago, I found myself in need of a dress. You see, I would be making my drag debut on stage in the 2012 Sydney University Queer Revue and unfortunately, not being Cinderella, I couldn’t get any friendly neighbourhood mice to make me one. So, two weeks before the show, the props team, Jed & Annie (Jannie for short), the director, Joe, and I loaded ourselves into a Toyota Camry and embarked on an expedition to find a fabulous frock or two. Our quest took us deep into suburbia to the McMansions of Quakers Hill where Nathan, better known to many as Karen Kardashian, made his home.

He kissed us all hello and ushered us into his bedroom, racks of gowns impeding our entry, and then it seemed it was time to get naked. Now, getting naked is awkward at the best of times, but it’s a confronting experience when you’re standing in front of three judgmental fags and a hag in order to try on dresses at a stranger’s house – all while being sober.

The first dress was long, flowing and dark. It seemed perfect, until the zipper started to struggle around my ribs. So now not only was I half naked, half wearing a dress in a stranger’s apartment, but I was also FAT! As it turns out, being fat is a state of mind – and of inflated lungs – so I expelled and voila! I was thin again! The dress was stunning and it made my collar bones look a million dollars, so we continued on. Upon leaving Nathan’s house, I felt much more comfortable for the role ahead, knowing that I at least wasn’t going to look awful.

After that special evening in Quakers Hill, the opening night approached quickly. It was a Wednesday and I left the office half an hour early to get to the theatre. My talented make-up artist, Aidan, and his assistant, Clare, were patiently awaiting my arrival as we had to start early to get my makeup done in time. I grew to enjoy this part of the preparation and marvelled at the evolution that my face undertook. In some ways, I think Clitaurus’ persona would begin to swell inside me as she started to see her face staring back at me.

Hello, gorgeous! Photo: Rob Jones

Suddenly I was doing it. I was getting my sass on and owning the stage. Well, I was sharing the stage with each and every other performer, but for the moment when I was in the spotlight, I felt like a star. At one point, I found myself sitting on a stool, centre stage with a spotlight glaring down on me. A “cop” on either side of me, the only thing I could think of was how I’d sat the wrong way and the strapping tape keeping my junk in a neat “tuck” was now pinching. I could change position, but the incredibly revealing sequin dress in which I was clad was just looking for an opportunity to ride up. Oh god.

Yes, it was difficult to be a drag queen. But, as in any character role, it’s a chance to become another person or being and to live vicariously through him, or in this case, her. Clitaurus Van Carti-Gay gave me the opportunity to become an extraordinary woman for five awesome nights, to meet some pretty amazing and interesting people, and to have a completely new and challenging experience along the way.

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