Jeffery Self has just unleashed his third text Drag Teen out into the world, coming after his past two texts 50 Shades of Gay and Straight People: A Spotter’s Guide to the Fascinating World of Heterosexuals. Self is best known for being a comedic writer & actor, appearing in countless YouTube videos as well as television appearances on shows such as 30 Rock, Desperate Housewives, 90210, and Hot In Cleveland. In his new book Drag Teen, Self expresses the vulnerable truth of being a gay teen in high school and embracing his own love of drag culture.
Perhaps one of the most truth-telling quotes from the text is when the main character TJ is forced to come to terms with his own sexuality. Although he had lived in a “decade of equality and anti-bullying and all that stuff that gay celebrities liked to talk about on TV,” TJ realized that disadvantages did still exist in the real world. Through this time, he recognized that he could no longer blame his sexuality for feeling like an outsider because, as Self puts it, being “gay was in.” However, he continues by stating that while people had become more accepting of the LGBTQ community, this didn’t necessarily mean “that all gay people were” accepted. This is still prevalent today, within the gay community and outside it as well. If you look at the coverage by any LGBTQ publication, rarely do these outlets offer opportunities for people who don’t look like Gus Kenworthy or Barrett Pall.
Although TJ becomes hesitant during certain moments in life, it becomes apparent that he is someone who never gives up, embracing the mantra of Finding Nemo‘s Dory: “Just keep swimming!” In Jeffery’s words though, he just “kept going.” He kept moving forward through tough parts of being gay, such as the endless name-calling. Each moment throughout the text is crucial to the overall development of TJ’s adventure through drag, acceptance, and life.
The most important takeaways of advice for TJ are from a drag queen named Bambi, who states that “self-pity is an ugly color” on everyone. She later brings in her own perspective of growing up gay, making some sense of why it becomes so difficult to remain optimistic through struggling times: Bambi notes that “all that talk from those famous gay people saying it gets better is horseshit unless you put in the effort.” As the text progresses, readers continue to watch this 17-year-old TJ on his journey to self-discovery, enduring the trials and tribulations of being in a relationship, facing one’s own insecurities, & learning to be independent.
TJ’s greatest interaction with drag culture arrives towards the end of the text, when he is reminded why he loves doing drag so much. It is at this point where we see Self rise to his full potential. Drag allowed him to be himself: “If anyone had emerged, it was me.”
Drag Teen captures the emotional journey of growing up as a member of the LGBTQ community through the lens of a witty & captivating storyteller. TJ blends his experiences of LGBTQ life with his creative and wacky sense of humor, with the end result being more inspirational and relatable than any tweet by Jordan Bach. Drag Teen is like if “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield was written about growing up as a gay teen. From thrift shop wigs to bright-colored bob wigs, TJ has found himself through it all.
Buy the book on Amazon or at a local bookstore today.