Callan Forrester - LJI Reporter
Finding a sense of community wherever you go is essential to most people. It can be what ties people together and makes them feel like they are a part of something important. The Valley has a strong sense of community from town to town, with each person likely to acknowledge how valuable this is. Clayton Nussey, a Valley native, grew up in this community and has since moved to Montreal as an openly gay man who performs as a drag queen. His journey to drag is fun and fascinating, and it has helped him find another community.
Growing up here, Nussey didn’t really have the chance to fully realize his sexuality because of the lack of representation when he was growing up. “We didn’t have a lot of queerness in the Valley, so it wasn’t really until I moved away and went to college at Dawson that I started questioning my sexuality.” It was through meeting different people with different experiences that he was able to put that piece of the puzzle in place: “It was [through] interacting with other people who came out so much earlier than myself, that I really started feeling comfortable with it.”
Through these new friendships and realizations, Nussey was introduced to the Montreal drag scene. He was studying theatre at Dawson and was interested, since drag aligned so well with his field of study. “Cabaret Mado was a place where I was hanging out regularly with friends. And I became really close with a lot of the drags who were there even before I was performing. One of them asked me, why don’t I try it, and I was like ‘Oh, I’m not sure, it’s not for me.’”
Eventually though, under more friendly pressure, he decided to give it a go and do a sort of “drag audition.” The reaction from his friends was overwhelmingly positive; however, “I still wasn’t sure about it. It wasn’t until the second or third time that I was dabbling into it that I realized this is so much fun and so intertwined with theatre.” Since then, Nussey has been performing and figuring out what his particular niche of drag is.
Each drag queen has something that makes them unique and different from the next. Nussey makes it clear that his style is his own, but that’s not the only way to be a queen: “My version of drag is not everyone’s version of drag. To me, what I take from drag is really the theatrics, so, definitely the more comedy and ‘camp’ side of it. That’s definitely how I got started and got into the scene and really started performing often and am still performing!”
Being a part of the queer community, and more specifically the drag community, has helped Nussey access an entirely new world. “I always say you have your queer family and then you have your regular family. It’s almost like two completely different lives. And I think sometimes it can be really hard for people to relate [to, if] they’re not involved in the queer community, to really understand that.” It’s the diversity and mutual understanding of other queer people that have helped Nussey see this. “It’s so many people that came from so many different journeys – and are still on their journeys for a lot of them – so I do think it’s a really deep bonding experience that you have with the queer community that not a lot of people get to live.”
In terms of how people can be understanding of the queer experience, Nussey has three things to say: “Number one is just understanding it [exists], two is being accepting, and three is just learning about it.” He has had many experiences where people may not have had intentions of being homophobic; however, ignorance can get in the way of understanding. “I do think that it has come a long way since when I was in high school, but there is still a need for people to reach out and understand. Ask questions! Be curious! People need to be a little bit more open.”
For any young people who may be queer or questioning, Nussey’s biggest thing to offer is the message that the queer community is always open to new people. “There are so many groups now, with how big social media is,” he says. “Don’t be shy to reach out to people, because we’re a community and we’re there to help each other. If you’re curious about anything, contact the closest [queer] community club that you have nearby!”