When I started this journey, I recall sitting on an air mattress in Berlin, in an apartment where I was renting a room from a family friend. The space I had available to me was barely the size of the air mattress and a place to put my bags. Outside the door I could constantly hear a woman, the “family friend,” screeching at her husband and throwing temper tantrums that were far too reminiscent of my own father’s. I was three months into a six-month contract position, and began two journeys. One was hopping around Berlin, in temporary living, every two to four weeks, lugging three bags (all I owned) with me every step of the way. The other was to pretend I was a drag queen Pokémon trainer.
The Elite Four sat in front of me, like so many end-game bosses, waiting to test what I had learned, and if I had grinded (Or is it ground? Video games make grammar difficult.) enough to face their surely strong attacks and Pokémon. Would my drag troupe fare well?
I wish I knew. My drag troupe stared at me, expectantly, as if I had the answers.
I wish I did.
About halfway through the series, I found myself at the end of my contracted position, and while I may have been able to keep it, my stay in Germany was taxing me. Though I am a German citizen, I am not fluent in the language anymore (I know enough to get by and can have semi-decent conversations), and many treated this as a reason to be suspect of me. Meanwhile, in the game, I constantly found myself stymied by old design rules, where I had to grind and grind and grind to progress in certain areas.
As sometimes happens, instead I found the looming spectre of depression hanging over me. My Pokédex, otherwise known as the laptop on which I was running the game, had once again crashed, and this small failure, in the larger scheme of things, was just that one thing I found I could not handle. It was not the defeat at the first trainer on this last stretch that managed such: clear-cut adversity hardly seemed worth getting upset over in any larger sense.
Instead, I walked back down Victory Road while Daenerys was following on my heels, rather insistent in her concern. What was I going to do? What was wrong?
Again, I wish I had the answers.
I contacted a good friend of mine in Knoxville. I had recently landed a consulting opportunity, as well as a freelance position at a larger games site. The former crumbled and folded, the latter led to the editor taking forever to get to my piece. It took a few months for the editor to finally just say they were killing the piece. I had hoped that living in a reduced-cost situation in Knoxville would allow me to save up, apply to jobs in the US again, and meanwhile pursue freelance opportunities.
I looked at what I had accomplished. Supposedly I had given the queens dangling in Pokéballs on my belt an opportunity to express themselves. And yet, as I looked at what I was subjecting them to, I realized theirs was now a life where they had nothing personal. Or maybe they did, and I was not a part of it. In this game world, I had nothing but a feud with some entitled snot.
Meanwhile, the currency I was accruing was only good for further allowing me to battle, or find better means to battle. There was nothing outside of the glorified cockfighting. Rush (Limbaugh) was an amusing opponent name for a while, but in the end, it just felt all too true: struggling and fighting against one figure who would never see me as his peer or worthy of his full respect.
Instead, I have dealt with many months of failed freelancing opportunities, partially my own fault, partially on editors just disappearing, while leading a frustrated job search. My gaming PC died in the moving about in Germany, and the laptop I had died upon returning to the States. Then my new computer suffered a mishap and needed to be sent off to be repaired. I was being approached to write, but ever-increasingly from sources that wanted my work for free.
I looked at Daenerys and told her quite simply that she did not have to do this. We did not have to do this. We could choose our own paths. The Elite Four? Let them be elite. There is something to the queering of failure—not wanting to go down the same path already trodden, but to forge one’s own path. It was in the word queer itself, wasn’t it? Why was I seeking the Pokémon trainer normalcy of trying to be the top? Trying to prove myself to the establishment that was there? I was not interested in their politics, and all I was doing was fighting by their rules, not mine. I was winning on their ground, not mine.
After all, what is the point of having everything they have? I’d much rather have something more fabulous.
Instead, I looked at all the varied Pokémon before me, from Storm to Kaiser, and said we would instead go off and dance and be merry. The Elite Four could keep their title. We would instead create a weekly show: The Main Drag of Kanto.
It amuses me that I felt the need to mention my current state of shaved-face status in my initial post. It was largely to contrast how my own experience with gender is very fluid, which is why drag amazes me. Pokémon’s sex and gender rules seemed largely arbitrary, not really mattering in how Pokémon looked or behaved in the majority of the cases. As of the day I am writing this, I am once again clean-shaven. I have a Skype interview for a job. I may not get it, but that’s okay. I’m finding ways to stay afloat, and there are other opportunities that aren’t the path that seemingly lies ahead of me.