Courtney Act: Why I Went To A Trump Rally

You haven’t lived until you’ve dressed in drag and gone to a Trump rally.

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There’s an old Australian proverb: “You haven’t lived, till you’ve dressed in drag and gone to a Trump rally”.

I’m doing my show The Girl From Oz this summer in the seaside gay holiday mecca of Provincetown in Massachusetts. As Junkee’s official ‘Foreign Correspondent’ it is my duty to cover what’s happening in America for an Australian audience, and there is no bigger ‘happening’ right now than the Donald J. Trump phenomenon.

The Full Story

Last week I discovered that the next Trump rally was only a four-hour drive away so, using the power of Facebook, I found some local news camera people and someone to play the role of Kevin Costner to my Whitney Houston.

The next morning I picked up a car from the rental place at 9.45am. What should have taken four hours took double that. I listened to podcast episodes of G’Day Patriots and two seasons of Invisibilia on NPR. I usually leave myself two hours to transform from boy to girl, and in this instance I wanted to make sure I paid close attention to detail, because frat boys and daylight.

As I continued to sit in traffic I watched the estimated time of arrival on Google Maps eat into my getting pretty time. I also only had showgirl clothes with me so I had to plan a trip to the mall into my tight schedule. Thankfully there was one close to my hotel and as I pulled in I was greeted with the familiar Westfield logo and felt right at home. I ran into H&M and grabbed a bunch of dresses, blazers and hats from the rack and threw them at the shop assistant without trying them on. No time for that now.

What Would A Donald Trump Presidency Actually Look Like?

I got to my hotel at 5pm leaving one hour till my crew would be meeting me to head to the rally. Although I was rushed I genuinely felt like my life depended on making sure I looked as passable as a woman as possible. Although Donald said Caitlyn Jenner could use any bathroom she wanted in Trump Tower I was not sure his supporters would be as welcoming if they realised the blond Aussie feminine object of their affection had Mummy’s features and Daddy’s fixtures. Although I felt unsure about going as Courtney, I actually felt safer than going as Shane. I hoped at the very least they wouldn’t hit a girl, I also considered wearing glasses for this same reason.

But I wasn’t going into the Trump zone alone. At 6pm I headed to the lobby to meet my  6’5”, 127kg, armed, plainclothes, off-duty officer or “Andy” as I would come to know him.

As an Aussie, the idea of employing someone with a gun was a weird feeling. When I realised he was also wearing a bulletproof Kevlar vest under his polo, shit got real. The security agency texted asking if it was okay for Andy to get a photo with me. How sweet, I thought: a bodyguard and a fan at the same time. “Just so that we have a last known photo of exactly what you are both wearing in case anything goes wrong”. *gulp*

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We got to the rally and set up the cameras and began interviewing people straight away. People were eager to talk and either didn’t seem to mind or realise that I was in drag. Frat boys flirted (I had to remind myself that these corn-fed, all-American boys, were probably born this century) and the not-so-skinheads told me they were checking me out from across the road and they were glad I came and chatted to them, but I drew the line at exchanging numbers.

I can only assume I underestimated my ability to pass as a woman, as I don’t think I stumbled on a part of the world that was totally accepting of a gender variant being such as myself. The atmosphere was different than what I was expecting; lighter and more jovial. People were excited to be on their way to a Trump rally. We were at the Sacred Heart University campus, lots of green trees and grass, Trump merch stands, banners and signs. People were excited to hear from a man whom they hoped would bring them a brighter future.

But… Why?

My whole goal of going to the rally was to understand people. I didn’t want to belittle or mock them. I really wanted to have conversations and listen in the hope that we could find some common ground. What I found really surprised me.

Not one of them made any sense — and I don’t just mean their views didn’t align with mine. It was their use of the English language didn’t make sense. None of them spoke in complete sentences or seemed to listen, comprehend or properly respond to what I was saying. There was a lot of buzz words and rambling rhetoric cut and pasted together. But I persisted and listened and occasionally politely pointed out and questioned contradictions and misinformation.

You don’t like that Hillary has changed her mind on issues, but you do like that Trump learns as he goes and changes his opinions when he has new information? You think that people should stay in their own countries to preserve white America, but you don’t acknowledge that native Americans already occupied this land before the pilgrims committed genocide on a day now celebrated as Thanksgiving? Or that America was built on the backs of black slaves? Nothing I heard was based on any facts whatsoever. Just jumbled up sound bites, spewed out with passion and conviction.

But there was something stranger still: I found them all to be likeable. I didn’t feel scared. These people weren’t filled with hate. There weren’t innately bad or wanting to cause harm. It made me feel inspired that we are not fighting an enemy that hates us; they’re just misinformed. They’re not thinking about the world beyond their own immediate needs. They haven’t researched, read several independent news sources and created informed opinions that happen to be diametrically opposed to those on the left. This isn’t about facts, it about fear. Yes, that may make them a bigger threat to the future of the free world, but my perspective was totally shifted.

We can’t fight their narrative with logic, we can’t reason with them, we need to take a few steps further back and ask how did we get here? We need to approach them with compassion and address the issues causing the problem. The media, the failures in the education system and power of egomaniacs like Trump. And we also need to ask why? The problem didn’t start with Trump, but he certainly did dial it up to 11.

His tactics are dividing the nation, othering women, Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, gays and just about anyone who isn’t a white straight man. That’s who Trump wants to make America great again for. What he really means when he says that is, “make America great again for me”.

Courtney Act is an Australian drag queen and Junkee’s Foreign Correspondent. You can watch more of her videos for us here.