Big Hair. Oil Rigs. BBQs. Beyonce… Yes, this week we’re off to Texas! And our tour guide is actor, producer and director Emerson Collins. He’s taking us back in time to The Village Station in Dallas, which was the very first gay bar he ever went to. Though he can’t remember the songs he heard that night, what he was wearing, or what performances he saw, he does remember how it felt… The excitement, dread and anticipation of a better future for himself. We talk all about growing up as a Southern Baptist, how to lie convincingly, and being a theatre gay with a naked ambition. Find out more about Emerson at his website… And follow him on Instagram and Twitter.
Emerson Collins 00:00
The religious standards you’re holding yourself to are ridiculous and absurd on their face. Let it go and get that dick.
K Anderson 00:09
i am k anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. every episode i talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there, and the people that they used to know.
This week is our first ever visit to Texas, and our tour guide is actor, producer and director Emerson Collins. He’s taking us back in time to The Village Station in Dallas, which was the very first gay bar he ever went to.
Though he can’t remember the songs he heard that night, what he was wearing, or what performances he saw, he does remember how it felt… The excitement, dread and anticipation of a better future for himself.
We talk all about growing up as a Southern Baptist, how to lie convincingly, and being a theatre gay.
So, Texas. Big hair. Oil rigs. Lots of racism and Destiny’s Child. What else do I need to know about Texas?
Emerson Collins 01:52
Honestly at this point, that’s it. You’ve definitely got it, you know, Beyonce and bigots, steers and queers. That is our people. The bigger the hair, the closer to Jesus
K Anderson 02:02
is that way your hair is cropped? quite short.
Emerson Collins 02:05
Correct? I’m getting further and further away from Jesus as I go
K Anderson 02:09
consciously uncoupling from him. Yeah, correct. The
Emerson Collins 02:12
Southern Baptists are I’m not allowed as close as I used to be.
K Anderson 02:16
Oh, is that like the two metre rule? Uh huh. Was it a two metre rule there? Every country seem to have a different rule.
Emerson Collins 02:24
Ours is six feet, which isn’t quite two metres. You know, it’s it’s closer to seven feet to get two metres but it’s the same principle stamp,
K Anderson 02:32
but you could possibly touch each other. If you were stretching.
Emerson Collins 02:35
Yes, if both of us reach out our arms and we’re tall enough, you know, we can touch ting fingertips. Fingertips as we would say here.
K Anderson 02:45
say like, obviously you don’t have much to compare it to but what is growing up in Texas like
Emerson Collins 02:51
it’s interesting, I actually do have much to compare it to because when I was 16, I moved to Singapore. From suburban Houston, Texas, and I finished high school. They are in Singapore. So there’s a dramatic break in my developmental life. Um, so the growing up in in Texas part I learned much more about it once I moved far away from it because I was the skinny kid with glasses and braces who sang in the choir and played in the band and acted in the church pageants. And in Texas, if you don’t play football as an adolescent, you weren’t on him.
K Anderson 03:24
What’s a church pageant?
Emerson Collins 03:26
Oh, it’s a special thing. So if you get to a certain size church, there is usually in the Christmas season, a pageant that acts out the Christmas story, the birth of Jesus. So I grew up at a church in Houston, that was large enough, we did a pageant in December, that started rehearsals in August, it did 20 performances that included like 50 sheep, a live camel walking through the church, as the three kings bring their gifts to the sweet little baby Jesus. singing hymns and a 500 voice choir. So Christmas at my house growing up lasted four months of the year. That’s a pageant,
K Anderson 04:07
but they’re against homosexuality and flamboyancy.
Emerson Collins 04:12
Here’s the thing. They’re against homosexuality and they’re against flamboyancy in certain circumstances, because looking backward, a number of the men who were very involved with the pageant I think were more than a little bit swishy but they were just considered artistic. You could be artistic and love Jesus and you sort of got by with it a little bit
K Anderson 04:33
channelling all your energy into the cattle. Oh, no.
Emerson Collins 04:38
Oh, no, no, no, not beastiality but you know, can’t love Jesus What else can you do? But it was sort of the world of like, they refer Friday Night Lights, the idea that you know football is king and if you play foot you can be the D string, never playing football player growing up and you are acknowledged, but those of us starring in the school musicals in the band and the choir like are basically not a person so
K Anderson 05:07
and then s the contrast with Singapore.
Emerson Collins 05:10
And then so it was interesting to move somewhere that was not religiously homogenous was not racially homogenous was not culturally homogenous, it still had all of the normal adolescent trappings of popularity versus unpopular. But there was a much wider range of reasons people were successful in school, I got cast in the musical when I first moved there, my junior year, and people were like, come out with us, you know, who are you? What are you doing here? And it’s like, you know, I got cast in the musical, right, but we didn’t have a football team. I mean, we did, but it was a soccer team, obviously. And so there was a difference to the hierarchy. And the experience of not having everyone be sort of white, Christian, Southern religious, gave me a lot of room to flourish and spread my wings, not out of the closet, not yet, anywhere near being on that particular journey. But just going to school where like, there was no one dominant presentation or background, expanded my own point of view and sort of provided validation to the fact that I had thought there has to be more than this in suburban Houston, Texas, and there was
K Anderson 06:21
so I was gonna ask that about, like, when you grow up in those environments, and that’s all you’ve ever known, and that’s, you know, the norm and that’s what’s expected of people. Did you have that attitude of like, Are you fucking kidding me? Like, Is this it? Or were you more like, oh, there’s something wrong with me because I can’t I don’t fit in.
Emerson Collins 06:41
It definitely went back and forth between the two. You know, there’s an element of like, This is unfair, the world shouldn’t work this way. I mean, you know, and obviously, there is some exposure to the wider world because of
Yes, exactly. Oh, my gosh, Melrose Place was definitely a show we I was not allowed to watch in my house. But definitely saw occasionally like with a babysitter, like, oh 90210 into Melrose Place on I think it was Thursday nights was a very exciting time.
K Anderson 07:06
I was just so disappointed that they were like, Oh, we have a gay character and Melrose Place. Oh, and then he was the most boring white bread. Like, no sexuality kind of person. Yeah. Oh, of course.
Emerson Collins 07:20
Well, of course all across entertainment. I’m funny enough early entertainment. It’s a little bit like a culture. It’s like, oh, his big flaw is he’s gay. So then everything else about him is like, generically bland vanilla and boring. You might as well have a rice cake or styrofoam standing there. Because the whole the whole personality trait was like no gay that’s a persona,
K Anderson 07:42
you know, gay but non threatening, just fair.
Emerson Collins 07:45
Correct. Gave it non sexual, the kindle the like, oh, that cross he has to carry he’s gay. bless his heart.
K Anderson 07:54
Sorry, I took us off field and I’m really sorry to the whoever played that role. I can’t even remember who you are. You would that boring?
Emerson Collins 08:01
Like, but it’s so funny. I remember like every early gay character, I was definitely the like gay, who if there was a gay character introduced in a television show, I would start watching that show just because there were so few. I remember where I was. When I saw Jack’s first kiss on Dawson’s Creek. I saw every episode of Will and Grace and the first American Queer as Folk. And then even after that, anytime a gay character showed up, I was like, Oh, I’m watching the show. Now, whether it’s good, bad, or somewhere in between.
K Anderson 08:27
I didn’t watch Dawson’s Creek, but he was boring as well, wasn’t he?
Emerson Collins 08:31
Oh my gosh, yes, it was sort of the same thing. It was like, Oh, he’s gay. That’s his personality. And of course, it’s Dawson’s Creek sort of invented the teen soap opera genre that I then went on to watch every incarnation of because they were the shows most likely to introduce a gay character that wasn’t suffering in suburban Houston trying not to play football and be a person Oh, but the impact to the other there was both a like the world shouldn’t work this way. But since it does, oh my gosh, what can I do to like survive and theoretically someday thrive within this horribly awful system that I’ve been born into and
K Anderson 09:08
that’s where pageants come into play or I mean
Emerson Collins 09:12
yes and no, that was like we did them as a family. My entire family were in the pageant you know, we got a we were all singers. We were all in the thing. But I do attribute that earliest being involved in performing at church as the instigation for my own continuing to pursue performing at school and then beyond so it, it probably does all trace back to playing, you know, a little frontier boy in the church pageant,
K Anderson 09:40
frontier boy, what the,
Emerson Collins 09:43
the way the church pageant worked. The second act was always the story of Jesus’s birth to death. Christmas. Yeah, the first act every year had a different theme. So one year it was like Christmas in the future. One year it was Christmas in Texas in the 1860s. And I was a little okay Daniel Boone kid with a coat Skin cap running around the church day.
K Anderson 10:02
Oh, okay, so they didn’t like relocate Jerusalem to middle America?
Emerson Collins 10:06
No, we weren’t reinterpreting. It wasn’t like a How was Jesus born? If he’d been born in like Louisiana during the new in New Orleans, like it was an anreise vampire novel or something? No, we did. You weren’t allowed to take creative liberties with the actual Bible, Christmas,
K Anderson 10:23
in some ways is a good thing. But in some ways, I would love to hear about those shows. What was Christmas in the future, like,
Emerson Collins 10:30
it was lots of silver lame lots of like, tinsel, it was like silver and purple, you know that that was the colour scheme of the future, apparently. And you know, green laser light.
K Anderson 10:43
I feel like this is the time but I need to tell you that when I was at school, my best friend Sarah and I, there was we had a favourite book in the school library called fashion 2000. And it was this book that was made in the 80s. It was like really old. And it had asked fashion designers to, like come up with their vision for what we will be wearing in the year 2000. Yeah, it was just like, off the walls, like bullshit. Basically, everyone was wrapped in tin foil. But it was amazing. And like, as an adult, I keep looking for this book everywhere. Trying to find it gotta go to eBay. Like maybe it exists, and it just doesn’t exist. I just can’t find you. I feel like Sarah and I might have made it up
Emerson Collins 11:25
that you just did that. What’s your plan for the future? I do love that. Like, if you look 70s and 80s, anything that was set in like the year 2000. And beyond, it was like, oh, we’re not going to use squares or rectangles anymore. There’s going to be lots of silver for some reason. And everyone’s going to use like a hospital blue lighting.
K Anderson 11:45
But we’ll all have perms still. Yeah. Or like
Emerson Collins 11:48
weird angled haircuts. Like it’s, it’s I love that the future was always just like, I don’t know, geometry is going to be like, we’re gonna stop with 90 degree angles. Those are over.
K Anderson 12:01
Anyway. So you had this time in Singapore, and you kind of realised like, Oh, I don’t need to live my life in this way that I’ve been conditioned to think I need to, when did you come back to the state.
Emerson Collins 12:12
So I graduated high school in Singapore. And then I came back to Texas, to Waco, Texas to go to college at Baylor University. It is the world’s largest Baptist institution. So listener, if you were thinking that I moved overseas and threw off all the shackles and limitations of my adolescence in Houston, you’d be wrong. I went to college, and those religious ones were just as heavy as they had been before we went overseas, so
K Anderson 12:35
Okay, so then what was the thought process
Emerson Collins 12:40
of attending Baylor? why they’re great. The real honest answer is it was free for academic scholarship. And I thought, well, if I want to be an actor after university, going out into the world to audition for things with $120,000, in student loan debt doesn’t seem like a great plan. And Baylor is free. So I will go there. That was the like, big motivation.
K Anderson 13:02
And and so then before going, like, what were you thinking?
Emerson Collins 13:08
Well, I know, this seems like a terrible plan. I really was, you know, for all of the experience that I got internationally and getting to travel all of Asia and, and how that expanded my worldview in many, many ways. The religious influence of like, my own upbringing, didn’t wane. We went to church in Singapore, and all of that, and so it’s still very strongly in the Southern Baptist, very religious aspect still existed for me. And I wasn’t at that point, super tortured about like, Oh, no, I’m gay yet. You know, it was sort of like all of that got derailed when we moved overseas. And I suddenly just got to travel. I was sort of sponging the world that was larger than what I had been in before. And it sort of got set a little bit to the side until I got to college. Weirdly, because I considered going to schools in New York, I visited other places, but I ended up back in Waco, Texas, the giant family homestead my grandparents were there. My parents had gone to school there, my uncle had worked there. And the fact that it was free and I was like, great, I can make the best of this. And strangely, making my world small again, is what gave me the space to start exploring and confronting beginning the steps of confronting that I was a gay man. Really a really really gay man.
K Anderson 14:28
Like gay spelled ga je y gay like,
Emerson Collins 14:32
like yeah, or would like seven like it’s really in there. They’re just a little extra ones at the end
K Anderson 14:39
and so where are you then like, what are you excited to be going to university or were you like, Oh, this is familiar because of all of these elements and like this is just the next thing I’m doing.
Emerson Collins 14:48
No, I really was I definitely went through school is like the kid who I love. I loved learning like I definitely was like the kid that annoyed other kids. I was like, I want to know stuff. I want to know everything about everything. I think some of that, weirdly, is tied to the gay conversation because there was an element of like, I want us to understand everything about how the world works about how people work, I want to know everything I can. So I was definitely off to university with like, I want to know stuff, I would have done probably four or five majors at the time, if I had had the time to get it to do it. And I think some of that was me unaware of the fact that I was searching for something else that I didn’t yet have fully focused in my brain, like what that was, I think I was looking for either an answer, you know, to the conflicts within me, that more understanding of more things might make that easier to deal with or to confront. It was not nearly as conscious as I’m describing. But as I look backwards, I think that that, that there was something to my enjoyment of the pursuit of knowledge or whatever that is, that was tied to this, like I’m uncomfortable with something and myself and trying to understand where and how I fit according to the parameters of the world,
K Anderson 15:59
And to distract yourself
Emerson Collins 16:02
and very much that to fill your time with other things, you know, if you’re, if you’re too busy and too exhausted, you don’t really notice that, like, you’re not attracted to really to any of the girls that you’re attending these functions with on the weekend, but you’re a great date to any theme party,
K Anderson 16:15
especially future parties. Oh my gosh, yeah. Um, so if we could just do quickly, like Southern baptism 101, what do I need to know?
Emerson Collins 16:26
Well, part of what you need to know is that Southern Baptists only exists essentially because they were racist. Like once upon a time there was just like Baptists and then I believe when the American South in the Civil War, don’t quote me on this, y’all can check the Google but there are parts of like, why it originally split off and why the the general Baptist Convention of Texas split off that have to do with like the north south, Civil War splits. And I would say that it’s the kind of Christianity that definitely focuses on form and public presentation over function. You know, it’s not liturgical, like Catholicism, or Presbyterians. But it’s like Sunday, socials. And it’s very, and it’s very much cultural. In the south, there’s a lot of like, heavy cultural influence of like, you go to church on Sunday morning, then you go to lunch at the buffet, then you watch the football game, then you take a nap, and then you get up and go to work on Monday. But it’s very pervasive, even if you’re not a strong church. attendee. So the
K Anderson 17:26
teachings aren’t all that different, but it’s like the tribe?
Emerson Collins 17:30
Yes. And exactly. And it’s very focused on the the teachings that reinforce the existing culture. You know, it’s definitely the the background of using the Bible sort of as a, as a weapon to wield against those that are different those that stick out, you know, the clobber verses against homosexuality. And it’s that long line of history of, you know, the Bible being used to reinforce slavery to reinforce racism to oppose interracial marriage to oppose homosexuality to oppose trans people. Oh, it’s all of that there was a god.
K Anderson 18:05
And then to being at that University, were those messages kind of reinforced you, or where was that kind of just not brought up that much?
Emerson Collins 18:15
it’s interesting, because I’ve thought back, you know, I know some people grew up places where like, the anti homosexuality was definitely loud in their church. I didn’t go anywhere where it was that it was more just understood, in the sense that, that that was not acceptable. It’s not like I heard sermons all the time preaching about gays going to hell, particularly, it was more just pervasively understood, that was not acceptable. Yeah. And in college, it’s not like everybody has to go to church together or anything. So it’s more just you end up with a homogenous group of people that all come from the same background. And that just sort of continues It was not that it was really that different from any other university life. There was just more dogma included in the like, highest levels of the why the university exists. There’s plenty of people out getting hammered on Saturday on AI and then rolling in bleary eyed to a church somewhere on Sunday morning.
K Anderson 19:04
Okay, and so then at that university, was there much diversity? I mean, obviously, I know what everyone’s background was, but did anyone take it as an opportunity to be like, I’m gonna be me from now on and like, Did you see any of that there?
Emerson Collins 19:18
There was not as much as other universities I think that like why demographics of like race or racial and certainly religious makeup would be smaller than most places. But like in the theatre department that I joined very quickly in my sophomore year, we had two and a half homosexuals and by half I mean one of my dearest friends in the whole world kept going in and out of the closet through the course
K Anderson 19:41
Okay, yeah, it wasn’t just that his bottom half was gay.
Emerson Collins 19:44
No and it was you know, it’s like a mermaid you know, only the top half the bottom half is still straight.
K Anderson 19:50
Oh, well, that’s useless if the bottom why exactly. I guess you could give blowjobs so I mean, that must have been tiring to keep up with.
Emerson Collins 19:58
Yeah, it certainly Was and and is and is and it was for me as I got further and further into college it became more and more sort of undeniable. This part of me definitely wanted to be expressed obviously I wanted to date to physically connect with people. And it’s then it carried so much guilt and shame that I reached a point where I realised that moving sort of dramatically but I reached the point where I, the conflict in me was so big and so strong that I was like, I’m either not going to live much longer for the amount of like guilt and shame that I feel about this, or I’m going to accept it like it definitely reached the sort of fork in the road of this is going to kill me or I’m going to like deal with it.
K Anderson 20:38
And you weren’t one of the two and a half gays.
Emerson Collins 20:42
I’m very much not in fact, one of them who’s still a very good friend sort of was like I think you are just so you know,
K Anderson 20:49
like I said, nice to meet you by the way you look pretty gay. Yeah, man.
Emerson Collins 20:53
It was it right away. But it was I definitely remember a night at a party him being like, I think you’re gonna get there come to the light. Yes, very much and and should have been helpful because he certainly wasn’t saying it in a judgmental way. But I was definitely not prepared at that point. And if anything, it was more terrifying to sort of be seen at a point when I wasn’t ready. That made me sort of shunt it aside again a little while longer. But it is this period at Baylor By the way, where it became very striking and me really consciously being aware of my own sexuality. And when I was a sophomore, a senior in the theatre department who was this extremely attractive, handsome man, who weirdly, I in middle school had played in the band with his younger brother. So I’d known who he was long before college, came out of the closet in the theatre department, it was a very big deal because he was very socially connected on campus. He was in one of the fraternities. And so it was sort of scandalous around the campus that he was dating the head of a fraternity at another university. And so we all as a group of theatre majors drove from Waco, Texas to Dallas, it’s almost it’s an hour and a half north, to see him perform in drag on the amateur night at the Village Station. So my very first trip to a gay club bar was driving up as a very closeted theatre department member to see the hottest guy in our theatre department performing drag at an amateur show at this big gay club.
K Anderson 22:28
And at this point, you weren’t out nowhere near where you like, maybe I am, or were you just like, distracting yourself.
Emerson Collins 22:37
I was still in the phase of like, Oh, I probably am. But that’s bad. And I’m gonna go to hell. And so I should work through this and get quote better at some point.
K Anderson 22:46
And so were you actively doing anything to get better?
Emerson Collins 22:49
I mean, yeah, I mean, sure. I know. I never like attended conversion therapy, like a fish learning thing. But there was lots of like, sobbing in my car praying, like, Please, God, take this away. sort of things happening at this space.
K Anderson 23:02
Why in your car?
Emerson Collins 23:04
Well, because I was like, you know, in college, where else can you like, be by yourself? It’s like, I’ve got all these roommates. There’s people everywhere else who was like, either in the car or like wandering the campus at night or something. Those are the choices.
K Anderson 23:14
That’s grim. Okay, so then you went to this place, where are you thinking, like, Oh, crap, I don’t want to go to a gay bar. It’s gonna be full of gays. Or were you like curious or were you just more focused on the performance?
Emerson Collins 23:28
All of the above? I was like, thoroughly excited and horrified that everyone would suddenly know that this was the thing I was struggling with. Like when I walked through the door like that the rainbow detector would go off like over my head, like, believe me on a hard to be like, yeah, gay, gay, gay, gay. Hey, we see you’re a gay welcome gay. Lots
K Anderson 23:48
of you get lots of glitter over yourself when that happens. Yes, and
Emerson Collins 23:53
it like never goes away. I’m pretty sure I have glitter on my body somewhere from the first time I ever attended, like a gay
K Anderson 23:58
bar just never disappears. It doesn’t.
Emerson Collins 24:01
So I was excited, horrified. I mean, the like, I know that I felt as we drove there, because we have an entire car ride where I have no idea what I said. And I’m sure we filled the air with like,
K Anderson 24:12
you weren’t just listening to show tune singing?
Emerson Collins 24:15
Oh, no, there was definitely a good bit of that. We did plenty of that. But the combination of excitement and terror I’m surprised that he didn’t throw up on the way to the club because I can still feel my heart pounding like walking down the street and up to the door of the bar. And I caused a crisis this first night of the gay bar because I had left my ID an hour and a half back in Waco, Texas. My friend Whitney that I rode with, had to go into the club to find our friend Nick to bring him to the door for him is now a six and a half foot woman with giant blonde curls waiting to do his amateur performance to like scratch the head of the ball doorman to like get me in the door without an ID. And I remember walking through the door and the way I see See it in my mind, there were penises flapping in the air. Now I have been to this bar literally hundreds of times since then. And I can assure you that a penis has never flapped in the air in Dallas, Texas, you can’t be naked. But I just remember the sense of like, everyone I’m seeing identifies as gay, some kind of queer and feeling that energy in the air. So
K Anderson 25:25
this isn’t like when a hen party buys a bunch of plastic penises and like, throws them around and hangs from the ceiling. This you mean actual penises?
Emerson Collins 25:34
In my mind. Like that is not what happened, but like the way it felt at the time, like the awareness that everyone’s standing in this room is like, openly gay, willing to let everyone else here know that they are in this room. Felt like Club Babylon from Queer as Folk, it wasn’t but that is this feeling I had walking in like, I can assume that as a gay person. I can assume that yeah here because this was also not an era when they’re like tonnes and tonnes of straight people are ally identifying people in the room. So it’s like just men as far as the eye can see.
K Anderson 26:10
And the lesbians by the pool table, right?
Emerson Collins 26:13
Yeah, yeah, yeah, and working security and bartending and like, still like my favourite lesbian on earth that I met like the next time I went, she was like the big the downstairs corner. Well, bartender. Like my first queer out mother. Bigger some steak.
K Anderson 26:27
So if we could just cycle back quickly, yeah, when you were standing outside waiting for Nick to arrive to the bouncer to let you in? And then when Nick did arrive, like, how did you respond?
Emerson Collins 26:39
Well, I remember thinking, oh my god, I don’t even know how to process that the, like Amazonian woman standing in front of me is like Nick, the hot frat boy that I sort of have a crush on. But there was definitely so much blood pounding in my head that there were not coherent thoughts beyond like, Oh, God, here we go. This is happening right now. It’s happening.
K Anderson 27:01
Okay. Okay. Did you have like any negative thoughts about what it was to be a drag queen?
Emerson Collins 27:07
No, I didn’t, you know, I never. I felt so much internal shame, internal judgement, that I never really had time in my life to feel very judgmental about other people. Like, honestly. And I was sort of like, yeah, for all of the like, horrible things I was saying and doing to myself at the time, I never had that feeling about other people the same way and I’d had the space to examine that like the gay choreographer of a show, you know, I didn’t think oh, you’re burning in hell, but I definitely think I am there. I was too self involved. To have any judgement left for anybody else. No, I just remember thinking oh my gosh, this giant like clown figure in front of me. Like that’s titillating and exciting and we did go up to see him in the drag show. So we all made it up our little group of Baylor theatre students and I do remember like, like dancing along and sort of like turning to my best friend and her being like I’m not sure I’m okay with this and I was like, I’m not sure I am either like flailing my arms along to the show, but like having the best time of my life
K Anderson 28:09
Okay, and so you were watching the performance you were like wow, but also ah like what else happened in that night? Were there other performances Did you get on stage?
Emerson Collins 28:22
No god no, no, it might my fear of like drag queen microphones and spotlights definitely started this night where I was like, Oh, please don’t come talk to me. Please don’t ask me a question. I still vaguely have that sense today. Despite the number of drag queens that I know personally and very well there’s still a part of me that’s like, please don’t talk to me. Please don’t include me in your crowd
K Anderson 28:43
do you have a tactic to avoid them forcing you to join in
Emerson Collins 28:49
yeah don’t sit in the front row. always sit in the like second person in your group and never look at them when they’re scanning the room.
K Anderson 28:57
Oh see I think you should look at them I think you should look them down no i and be like no me move on. Because look as though you’re like oh please don’t look at me then they can they can smell it like they know Yeah, you
Emerson Collins 29:09
have to do it nonchalantly though you have to just sort of happened to be like talking to your friend yes if you’re obviously avoiding but also that like direct eye stare challenge can invite it just as much. They’re like oh not
K Anderson 29:21
if you like take your finger and you take it across your neck like you’re threatening them
Emerson Collins 29:27
every drag queen I know would be Oh, look at you Mr. Confident what a day. What was your pantomime play you just did to grow up doing Christmas pageants. But it’s funny because you know, with the way memory works, it’s so strange because like, I know other people performed that night, obviously. I mean, we watched a whole show. I don’t remember anyone else on the show. I remember Nick and what felt like 80 pounds of Dolly Parton size blond hair as an Amazon woman.
K Anderson 29:56
Did he look busted?
Emerson Collins 29:57
No. He looked great and somebody painted him. It was very little He had clearly been going out up there and someone was like, Oh, honey, I’m gonna put you in drag for the first time on and you can perform on amateur night. No. So he looked good. I in my imagination, he was amazing. Now thinking of all the amateur nights I’ve seen since he probably was fine, he wasn’t dancer or anything. So I’m sure it wasn’t like a jaw dropping performance, he did not continue doing drag after this one fun experience. But in my mind, it was like jaw dropping for the fearlessness of it all. And I’ve been a huge fan of drag shows ever since I’ve thinking about how much freedom that gave to the sort of swishy or more feminine aspects of my own self. I definitely love to drag for that the celebration of like, people that are truly femme people that are sometimes all of the things about me that did not fit the Texas masculinity. Marlboro cowboy man is definitely what drew me to drag that like fearlessness of leaning all the way in being a gay man, I’m going to fully dressed as a woman, and I’m going to swish and kick and all of those things are now strengths, standing on stage stage in the spotlights. You know, law years and years after having healed the trauma of all that I know, it’s still why I love drag so much. Why I always have.
K Anderson 31:18
And then you’ve watched the performance when all of the performances were over. Did you mingle?
Emerson Collins 31:26
We didn’t I know that. Like we all were like, Yay, you were so great, and whatever. And I think we might have danced as a group for a little while. But I don’t remember the car ride home at all. Oh, okay. The the memory of that night is very much in the like arrival, unable to get into the club, seeing him perform. Yeah, and then no idea. You know, one o’clock in the morning driving back to Waco, Texas. I don’t remember the conversation. I don’t remember any of the elements of the rest of that.
K Anderson 31:55
Do you remember what that sparked within you?
Emerson Collins 31:59
at that? I do. Because that was during the fall semester. And then that Christmas home in Dallas, where my family was, I did lie about going somewhere on a Thursday night so that I could go back to the club by myself. So I drove myself down to park behind the bar, and sat in my car for 45 minutes working up the nerve to walk back into this club that I had been to three months before.
K Anderson 32:28
And this is the same car that you cried in regularly.
Emerson Collins 32:30
Oh yeah, yeah, that caught your stains. I know that tan Ultima. And I kind of did two car accidents in the same parking lot on campus. And that car I put that car through. I mean, by the end of college, it definitely had the same wear and tear that my psyche did. Both of us needed were near the expiration of our warranty at that point. And but I did so I drove down, worked up the nerve to get down there then had to start all the way over working up the nerve just to get out of the car and walk the long block to the street and the long block to the entrance to the club. Get the big black x’s on my hand for being under 21. And going into the club, just as terrified even more so this time. And with no one with me none of the sort of armour of friends and you know an excuse, I made a beeline up the mirrored hallway to the rose room where the drag shows were done because it was the only space in the building I knew really. And I had that feeling of if I stopped moving, people are going to know or I’m going to look like I don’t belong or someone’s going to talk to me and I’m definitely not ready for that. So ran up the stairs to the back of the rose room hugging up against the big mirror hallway wall to watch the drag show lights go down and I sort of could finally let go of the breath I’d been holding and as a performer kid like watching a show made me feel comfortable. I knew how that part of the evening would work and it made it sort of okay for my brain to process like being here, but I was definitely wearing like black dress pants and a white button down shirt. What kind of shoes definitely I was probably just like black dress shoes It was like I don’t have any cute club clothes
K Anderson 34:09
so hang on what was the lie you told your parents?
Emerson Collins 34:12
I have no idea I’m sure I’m at that point you know I’m in college I was I was the kind of kid growing up where people used me to let to convince their parents that they could do something like I was so not likely to be doing something that would get in trouble that I was the like, Emerson’s going so what do we find? So that there wasn’t really I could just you know, I’m going to meet with my roommates from college we’re going out somewhere whatever there was until like
K Anderson 34:36
I said you didn’t have to come up with an elaborate lie to explain the dress shirt.
Emerson Collins 34:40
No, it was definitely like we’re just going out we’re gonna go do something whatever. This was during the era that when you could smoke in clubs. And so coming home at the end of the night I mean I did have to say like we were going out dancing somewhere like who we were going with because I definitely came home and that like everything on you is so smell of smoke. So there was no getting around. What kind of activities? So do you have to tell a lie that’s close enough to the truth that it doesn’t get found out in the like after?
K Anderson 35:10
911? Do you know what you’re doing? Yeah. And so you were just like they’re up against the wall where you like making eye contact with anyone what was happening?
Emerson Collins 35:20
No, nope, nothing like oh yeah, I’m gonna watch the show. Please don’t talk to me, I’m far enough away. And I can get lost in what’s happening up there and sort of like relax for a little while. When the show was over, I finally managed to venture downstairs to stand near enough to the dance floor to see things happening, not brave enough to walk out into it. Finally, after a little while, this guy comes sort of like dancing over makes eye contact and I like come out onto the dance floor. And this I viscerally remember, because we’re dancing and then when he does that thing where like you interlock your legs between each other so like your thighs are essentially around one of his legs. I can remember that feeling of the pants I was wearing that this sort of like very first experience of like in front of other people having contact with someone that’s like obviously gay. Like if anyone looking can see this is gay. Um, and I remember the like excitement and thrill of that of like literally just our thighs touching and then your torsos like up close to each other. Like I remember it
K Anderson 36:31
so hang on. So was it that like you were caught in this moment with him? Or were you like hyper aware of everything that was going on around you?
Emerson Collins 36:38
I it’s funny because then that moment it actually all just lasered in and I was like finally managed to sort of crest for that moment that like I want to be doing this like this feels very good. This is very exciting, like whatever anybody else is seeing and like I don’t have the energy to notice anyone else anymore because now all I’m thinking about is like our thighs touching as we like dance that he’s like, holding on to my thigh with his two legs it my whole world has become this like physical time, because it was the very very first time ever, like publicly physically engaging in a way that was definitively gay
K Anderson 37:15
and did it lead to my one of my favourite pastimes which is snogging on the dance floor?
Emerson Collins 37:20
it did not we got like very close and then but and then I had to like oh my gosh this is like too much and entirely overwhelming and sort of like it was so nice to meet you okay bye I gotta go and like run all but running out of the club. Like it was like that was really exciting. Oh my gosh, this is too much I have to go
K Anderson 37:37
Oh, so then at this stage like a few months has passed since your first time there were you more comfortable with the notion that you might be gay or was it still like huh yeah,
Emerson Collins 37:50
yeah, it’s not that I was more comfortable with it it’s more that it was more undeniable okay. The conflict was not particularly less but like my own like hormones and desires and things are now pushing it’s that weird push pull up like oh wow, I want to do this oh my god I shouldn’t have done that. You know, it’s like the urge fights through and then the like guilt and shame like lands just as heavy right?
K Anderson 38:14
Just after you come Yeah.
Emerson Collins 38:17
Literally, like running and crying but like you’ve got a boner still so like what is happening? The butt and one of the things I forgot what before I worked up the nerve to go out onto the dance floor. This guy had come up and he was like, hey, you’re really cute. Thanks. Oh my gosh, you’re talking to me that’s terrifying. We’re having this Christmas party you’re young and cute. You should come this is the address this is where it’ll be. It’s later this week. That was the whole interaction Yes. I look back and I think he saw me like so terrified because he was a little bit older. He might have been like mid late 30s at the time and I think he probably knew what was happening because I certainly in the Euro sense have seen people have been like I see I know where you are and good for you. You’re like you’re getting there you’re doing
K Anderson 39:01
or he was trying to scoop you up before anyone else did.
Emerson Collins 39:05
Or that as well. Like yes, you’re new and terrified and Yay. But so he told me about this Christmas party. So after this night of running out of the club after like that was too much this this sweet man Bill that I danced with for a moment like a week later because we’re still on Christmas holiday break comes the night of the Christmas party. And I decide I’m going to go see what’s happening with this. So make up some other lie blah blah blah go into a Christmas party with these people. It doesn’t matter. There’s no way for my for anybody to check on it. And so I drive 45 minutes away like from Dallas halfway to Fort Worth in Texas it’s a Metroplex but there’s like a great just a good distance between them to like some random house but I like fully I’m like headed 20 miles out of town to this house. Same thing. Get to the Christmas party, sit in the car, like two houses away trying to like watch like who’s going in like am I ridiculous for wanting or for agreeing to go to a party at a house where I literally know no one. I see like a few people’s struggle and nobody looks like a serial killer Okay, great.
K Anderson 40:09
Okay, what does a serial killer look like?
Emerson Collins 40:12
I don’t even know. Like that. Nobody looks like terrifying and sketchy if you just look like regular people go into our Christmas party that’s when a serial killer looks like to be honest that’s the problem is they really do actually look like everyone else. So what I found, but nobody looked overtly stereotypically terrifying just regular homosexuals headed for a hohoho party. And so once again after like an hour of sitting in the car, I only managed to get out of the car by being like you’re an embarrassment if you turn around and drive 45 minutes home like if you just wasted an hour and a half and did nothing
K Anderson 40:44
oh so wait so going up in service Southern Baptist 101 shame plays a big role.
Emerson Collins 40:49
Yes. Okay. Absolutely. But by this point in my life I’d learned to use shame in the opposite direction as well right it’s like there’s the shame there’s the external shame and now I’m literally shaming myself in the car like the the stereotypical masculine I could use that against myself as well like that don’t do that thing that people said in like middle school that horrible like, on so I got out of the car followed a group of like three people into this party. Same thing though, like I’m gonna walk in right behind you so that no one stares at me when I walked through the door, like what are you doing here? Who are you? Um, and so walk through the door, they sort of went and I managed to make like a turn far enough away to like, no one’s staring at me. I’m sort of near the kitchen to like scan the room. And of course, no one’s paying attention to me. I laugh at how much time we spend worrying about what other people think of us when most people are really only worried about themselves for the same reasons or because they’re narcissists and they don’t care you know, um, but it was such a validation that I went to this party because very quickly into the party I scan and I see bill the guy that I had danced with the week before the club so here I’m 45 minutes away at a Oklahoma Christmas party. And there he is the same man and I was like well, I don’t know what this means but this seems good I can talk to you I sort of know you.
K Anderson 42:12
So he wasn’t pissed at you for running away then?
Emerson Collins 42:14
No, because it’s not like I like ran off the dance floor like Cinderella leaving a glass slipper we just sort of like you know moved on through the dance floor evening and I disappeared Okay, no, there was commentary on like, I lost you that night. Oh yeah, I gotta go. And direct conversation we discover that he lives back in Dallas 45 minute drive in the apartment complex that’s practically catty corner to my parents house. So we had both driven the same 20 miles across town to this Christmas party only to be headed back to the exact same place so I took that at least as a sign and we hooked up back at his apartment complex after the whoa whoa whoa Christmas party. It was very thrilling and Petaling
K Anderson 42:58
Jaya imagine so you left the party together I’m assuming and each got into your cars and then drove back Yes. What were you thinking when you were driving?
Emerson Collins 43:08
Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Like that was definitely as coherent as it got at the time. No, at that point, it’s you know, in the shame spiral cycle. We’re definitely still like riding a crest of like, Oh my gosh, the super hot cute guy that like danced with me. And there he was at the party and oh my gosh, this is happening. This is gonna happen this is gonna happen. We’re now fully into the positive pendulum hormone swing. So that I was not driving back thinking oh, no, I shouldn’t do that. Oh, okay. went there. We were
K Anderson 43:36
so you weren’t you weren’t like flicking between the two options on the way.
Emerson Collins 43:41
Not at that point. At that point. You’re definitely into like, 20 year old hormone overdrive. You know, yeah, we’re doing this to the point where I parked at his apartment complex, it’s of course the middle of the night. And there’s nowhere for me to park so I parked in a fire lane, red pane on the sidewalk where like you can’t park so the fire trucks can. And I come out at 230 in the morning to go home and I have a parking ticket from parking in the fire lane in his apartment complex. That the next morning I have to like tap dance to explain to my parents how I got a parking ticket at an apartment complex that’s like 100 metres from their house. And I definitely went with some sort of like, I don’t know, a friend of Aaron’s, like lives over there, and we were all hanging out and I wasn’t paying attention at the time and they said it was fine and no questions were asked. I I believed that Well, I was describing this guy. The trick is to always always, always, always tell the truth. So the one time you need to tell a really big lie everyone believes you. And you know it’s that old thing of like when people go to tell like lies, it’s the details they get you into trouble right? It’s over explaining if someone over explained something to you, that’s when you start to go. Why are you telling me all this? Like I didn’t think anything of it until you made it started making it a thing. I don’t know. Maybe my parents knew I was lying and like didn’t know why or what about that. I feel like we always see how we presented ourselves as far better than it actually was.
K Anderson 45:05
But the truth is you came in smelling like sex. And they were like, Oh, yeah, let’s not ask.
Emerson Collins 45:10
No, we were not walking around my parents kitchen, like mixing sex now with that eggs and bacon in the air.
K Anderson 45:16
Okay, so what happened with Bill,
Emerson Collins 45:19
so we hung out a couple of more times that Christmas break at the club at his apartment. And then I went back, you know, for the spring semester at university, and like, we didn’t talk anymore. It was like, a whirlwind holiday romance. And done. And also, but then, in my like, own cycle, it was like, Oh, nope, back to oops, that was bad. That was a mistake back to like, focus on school and things and whatever. And it was, like, slam that into a wall and
K Anderson 45:44
put it away. And not like, Oh, I’m not gay. Just like, Oh, yeah, I am gay, but I should be like, doing his little gay activity is that?
Emerson Collins 45:54
Yes, we’re definitely sort of moved into the like, Oh, I probably definitely am. But I cannot be. So we’ve now shifted from like, maybe I won’t be pleased. Don’t be into like, Oh, yeah. But like, no, can’t, can’t do that can’t choose that.
K Anderson 46:10
And so does that involve lots of crying in your car, or were you just care nerve like,
Emerson Collins 46:15
I realised that I said, crying in my car once. But it wasn’t like a daily thing
K Anderson 46:19
every two days, every three days,
Emerson Collins 46:23
probably biweekly. But weird, that part of it like as it became more conscious. And of course, the struggle became more apparent, like as I finished university, that that aspect of like really front of the mind, sort of self torture of it all did get stronger, towards the end before I like finished and moved out. Because in the summers, I worked in theatres here in Dallas. And so that gave the opportunity then to every once in a while also like sneak out and run off to the same club to village station on a Thursday night to see the drag show on under 21 nights, and hang out for a while. But it wasn’t until I finished university and actually moved to Dallas that I started like moving sort of actively into like, coming out of the closet, there just was not the space for it at university.
K Anderson 47:12
And so this was like this. So this was immediately after university.
Emerson Collins 47:17
So after university, I moved to Dallas to do to like to work in theatre auditioning for shows. And whereas I like I laughed thinking like, of course people should have known. But in the world, I grew up in that sort of Southern Baptist world, it wasn’t no one thought that people were gay. Lots of people did not know a gay person. So it took people that were in the arts or that had grown up other places to be like you might be in the way that many other people right after college, just assume because that’s sort of what happened. No one, expected it at college. And then right after I started working in theatre, and I’m in the ensemble of musicals, and someone was like, we’re all going to the village station you want to come, the opposite happened, he sort of nonchalant assumption that I was gay started happening. And that’s sort of what gave me the first space to sort of like, examine what it would feel like for me to be out and open. So I didn’t it wasn’t that even that I came out to people it was that like, oh, it didn’t occur to them that I wasn’t because suddenly I’m in a world of like, adults who do theatre all the time. And there are lots of like, openly gay men in and around the world in the ensembles and things I’m doing so there was just like, Oh, yeah, you to write that sort of thing.
K Anderson 48:28
So do you then remember the first time that someone assumed you were gay and spoke to you as though you were?
Emerson Collins 48:34
Yes, I do. Because I was like, like, terrifying. And I like wanted to correct it. And then I also knew I would be sort of a hypocrite for for correcting it. And so I definitely just sort of let it run by I was like, we I was doing a show, the garland summer musicals. I remember. And this older, I say, older, I’m sure he was maybe at most 40 at the time, guy in the show was like, some conversation about people being gay. And he was like, Well, I mean, we don’t even have a straight guy. And this ensemble kind of comment was made. So I was just included in the group. It wasn’t a like, pointed at me. And I felt the like, I’m not you know, I felt that come up, but the instinctual need to distance myself from that. And then I also remember, if I just let that go, like, what does that feel like? And I didn’t say anything. And I remember that feeling like coming out like that world has shifted on its axis that I let you just think that about me. And of course, no, but everybody else is just continuing on with the conversation. But I feel like oh my gosh, I’ve just like come out to everyone here essentially. Oh, god, oh god, oh god, but like, okay, okay, I didn’t get struck by lightning, the world didn’t end and then started going out with them. And so it was like, by assumption, I was just included in the like being out group and that was sort of the first time that I went With those guys back to the village station to this club that I’ve been secretly going to now for two years on my own, and I’ve had for the first time, the experience of being out with people and all of us knowing that about each other and like, oh, we’re just a group of gays having fun on the town together. There was probably my first like, not, you know, shame filled. Oh, I’m like getting away with something or hiding something. I’m like, well, we’re just here, and just having a great time and look at us being like silly homos. like dancing the night away. Same thing still into the drag show, because I love it still my favourite thing. But the beginning of existing post University as like out adults. And so there was a big break in my life between the people I knew at university, the people I hung out with there, and this new like, adult, professional theatre world, where I left one without coming out to anybody, but like my best friend, and then suddenly, in this new one, I’ve just out because that’s who I am. So I didn’t personally actually come out, like saying the words, I’m gay, to very many people in an informative way, it just became like included in the new world and life that I
K Anderson 51:13
did you exert a lot of energy in trying to keep those different parts of your life separate?
Emerson Collins 51:22
Yes, and no, what I sort of just let happen, there’s that normal thing that happens post university where like, these people you see, every single day for four years, basically, graduation happens, and then you scattered to the four corners of the world. And then like, suddenly, you’re not seeing any of those people, nobody moves to wherever they’re moving. I just did not make an effort to stay in contact with the people I knew from Baylor that also were in Dallas, you know, I, I had the like, Oh, I’m too busy. I’m doing a show, whatever. So I sort of started building a life a new life. It’s not that I cut off the old one. I just didn’t maintain it. And so the natural evolution that happens, happened more aggressively for me than other people. So there’s sort of a big giant break in my life, kind of like the calendar, you know, before gay and after gay, and very few people, like made it from one to the other happy. I mean, really? Big ag?
K Anderson 52:17
Is that how the Bee Gees got their name? I pretty sure like before gay. Yeah. And then but yeah, what about your family? Then? Like, was that? Were you trying to tell? Did you tell them?
Emerson Collins 52:30
No, not for a while, um, I finally did when I had my first boyfriend. Two years into the like, being in Dallas, you know, and I was the typical like, post-collegiate part, you know, I want to be an adult, but I’m living at home to save money. But also you can’t tell me what to do or what time to be home. Like the normal post adolescent Parent Child conflicts. It wasn’t like gay specific, it was more just like you can’t you know, tell me what time I have to be back here. And so then I finally like started that coming out process once I had my first boyfriend, because it was like, Oh, well now you sort of need to know because now I’m going to go start like I’m spending the night at this like, same person’s house over and over. So
K Anderson 53:10
and how did you go?
Emerson Collins 53:12
That went fine. But like I’ve sort of always said that like, the theological, religious specific things were challenging for us to work through but unlike many people, I never had a question about the fact that my parents loved me unconditionally. So the academic arguments were tough but I did not have any of the like, the screaming rejection and all of those things that so many people experience and so I feel very fortunate about that my own self shame judgement was my own perspective on like the religion and things that I thought I was supposed to do correctly it wasn’t a fear of like my parents. The way it is for many with heavy religious and
K Anderson 53:55
yeah sure better than how did you work through all of that theologic can feel the fear feel the religious spirit
Emerson Collins 54:07
um, but so I kept building my like big new out life, and enjoying the like being a mid early, mid 20s homo on the town because I just passed the point of, honestly, there was an element of like, I’m either gonna, like kill myself to get to God to get the answers to these questions that I’ve had for so many years, or I’m gonna like, acknowledge and admit that this is who I am, and let the chips fall where they may so I finally met early 20s started living openly and, and with somewhat of an abandon, and it was the world of like doing all of theatre and being with so many people that was different than the like, conservative culture of my school and college. That gave me the space to do that. And it all came to a head. Speaking of the theological implications. The uptown players is a theatre company, a gay focused, LGBT themed focused theatre. company in Dallas, and they were doing a production of a play called Southern Baptist sissies written by Dale shores. He’s the creator of a big gay Southern franchise called sorted lives. And I auditioned for this play, knowing that literally the title I was like, I have to read this. I mean, it’s my own life experience in the title of a black being like a gay growing up in the southern baptist church. He was the son of a Southern Baptist preacher. And he had written this play about four boys growing up in the southern baptist church who are all gay and how they respond to it. One of them grows up to be a drag queen, the sort of thinker angsty writer is the narrator. One of them in his life, and one of them tries to be straight and marries a woman. And so all of my own personal life development issues, my theological concerns, my starting to live as an out gay man, all came to a head in choosing and then getting cast in this play, because literally my own internal issues were in the text of the play, I got cast as the drag queen character. I was terrified and excited drag from the village station being my very first love of like Big Gay public performance. And I got the thigh high hooker boots for the Shania Twain number that I would need to perform in the middle of the show in drag, walked up and down the street in front of the theatre learning to walk in the heels, and leading to this giant, like sort of personal catharsis. That was the actual production of this play as an advertisement for the play, we went and performed one of my drag numbers on the stage at the rose room at the village station, where I had watched all of these queens perform. So it was a big, like, full circle, standing in my sort of own gay power, so to speak. And as an actor, I’d played all these male ingenue roles and done all these like small, wide eyed boys and theatre shows so the like, artistic risk, the personal risk, the sort of loudly proclaiming who I am that doing this play did it was sort of a pinnacle of my personal development in many many ways. looking backwards there was this giant moment sort of in my life and doing this play where I said fuck it I’m moving forward you know this is who I am it is who I am it is who I will be who I will continue to be and like doing the show was sort of the final like planting of the flag it if you will, in my life to be like yeah, it says, undeniably, unequivocally, even Finally, proudly, me. And so in it, I got to go back and perform at the same club, I’d watched all those all those girls perform at and the personal bravery, what it took for me to like, do that play and know that ever, all of my friends from college and people would see the title of the play on Facebook and various things also led to like how I moved to Los Angeles. So you know, sometimes confronting our big giant, terrifying internal demons is rewarded and mine was legitimately directly rewarded as a result of doing this play.
K Anderson 58:07
And so all of those questions were questions that you asked yourself like, you know, Will people find out about this? What are they going to think how, like, how am I going to navigate that? Yeah,
Emerson Collins 58:16
but also and then I reached the like, I don’t have to care I don’t have to worry about it anymore. You know, I didn’t come out to any of those people. Particularly I came out to two of my closest roommates from college. Right after I moved to Los Angeles I came home for Christmas and I came out to both of them at one of their wedding. Like my two freshman year roommates. Like we’re sitting in the wedding waiting for the wedding to start and I’m sitting next to one of them I’m gonna make this about me literally I was like if I paint the picture of like the the narcissistic coming out journey because we’re sitting there waiting and there’s a little bit of quiet my he turns to me he’s like it’s really quiet. I was like, would this be a great time to tell everyone i’m gay? And he definitely did that like go for a laugh and then like cover your mouth and he was like oh my god yes, please do please do but literally that’s how I came out to him was like sitting waiting for our other roommate friend to get married. And then at the end of the night Oh, so
K Anderson 59:07
you didn’t wait until the Does anyone have any objections?
Emerson Collins 59:11
I didn’t do it as an objection or as a toast so I felt like it was like reasonably only partially Did I make it about me, but then I felt bad because the other one who I dearly loved I was like, well I came out to one of them and so it’s like the end of the night reception where everyone’s like dancing and I have to leave so I can drive back to Dallas to get on a plane to go back to LA and like we’re literally dancing goodbye. I was like by the way I came out to finish and like before the ceremony started and I know it’s weird to make to say that that your wedding day but but I’m gay and I didn’t want to like leave without telling you so by and I talked to him recently and he and his wife who I know and love very very much as well. They still laugh about it. He said she we still like bring it up and laugh but it’s like our like wedding reception or like, hey, by the way, I’m glad you laugh at it instead of saying thank you for making your reception about your own personal tragedy. The three act play that you’ve written for your. And again, it’s back to that nobody cares. I mean, I’m sure there are some judgmental bigots from my past. But I’ve also learned there are a number of people who have said over the years, I wish you’d given me the room to be better than you expected me to, you know, to be more accepting to be more understanding. And I’ve tried to explain to them that my own personal trauma with it was so large that I didn’t, I didn’t have the space to hope that they would be good. Because if they weren’t, I would would have like, tainted the memory of them in my life. So it was easier to just sort of leave them back in that other era, and move on. Which is sad, that’s
K Anderson 1:00:35
such an interesting way to look at it. Like, you know, when I came out, I was just like, at that part of my life, where I was like, fuck you all, I’m gonna be like that. And so, I guess my perspective was, well, I don’t need you in my life anyway, if you’re gonna have a problem with this. And so it’s interesting to hear your perspective that, like you, you wanted to cherish their memory?
Emerson Collins 1:00:59
Well, it’s, it’s like yours is honestly the healthier way. It’s like it’s much better. It’s the way I’ve encouraged people now, because I still what’s interesting about my own journey, so this, this place, other My business is working with Dell, we made Southern Baptist disease as a movie in 2012 years, years later in my story, but so because of that, I still get like DMS and letters all the time from people still living in this sort of world saying, I, you know, I felt seen in that, because for all of our advancement for all of our, like equality movements, there are still many, many places, of course, we know where if not legally, certainly, culturally, there is still a lot of pressure to not be and the fact that so many people are out invisible, can make those people feel even further disconnected from us. So I get letters from people saying, I really relate to that piece. And I think for me, I didn’t have space to even go out yet to be like, accept me or Fuck you. Which is correct, because this is just who we
K Anderson 1:01:52
are, I should get t shirts with that,
Emerson Collins 1:01:55
yes, you should sell merge, spaces merge, then you. But for me, I think I just got to the place of like, I was relieved that I no longer felt those things about myself. So mine was more of a, I don’t care what you think, because it took so long for me to let go of my own. The judgement I put into me, it was many much, much, much longer before I even like bothered to care if anybody had judged like my sense of relief of self acceptance was so large, that it sort of washed over everything. And it was like, I’m busy. I’m looking forward to the things I want to do. I’m finally getting to do them. I’m focusing on that. And on, you know, doing shows, and like, pursuing being an actress spoiler alert is not easy. But I had plenty of things to take up my time. And I did I was sort of like, whatever y’all think back there. I don’t I don’t see it. I don’t hear it. I don’t have to know I don’t have to care. Like I’m sure that it went around. I look back now and think I wonder what it was like as people like discussed it randomly. But I don’t know, and I don’t care.
K Anderson 1:02:58
So with that in mind, if you could cast your mind back, let’s say you’ve been transported back in time. And you happen to be planted at outside the club on the night that you first went there, and you run into your teenage self. What advice would you give?
Emerson Collins 1:03:22
It’s so funny, you know, there’s like, as you can tell, I’m prone to Hallmark card fortune cookie type platitudes because my torture was so much. And so I honestly think that all I could say that would matter at that point is like breathe baby Bree. Um, yeah, I think that I would be like this sweet middle aged Queen going, it’s okay. It’s going to be okay. Like, let it go. But I don’t think there’s anything else that could have said that at the time would have meant anything. If I’m being really honest, like, I’d love to say that if I had said right, then, like, the religious standards you’re holding yourself to are ridiculous and absurd on their face, let it go and get that dick. But I wouldn’t have been able to hear that either. I mean, I think that’s pretty good advice. Yes. Honestly, what I would say is if you would give other people if you would give yourself the grace you give other people this will not be so hard for you. You know, so I look back at how much I did. I wasn’t bothered by other people that I didn’t look at people with the judgement that I was so afraid of that yeah, if I just been willing to give myself the same room to like, screw up and that it would have been so much easier. But all of my works been informed by the trauma I personally experienced. So you know, I’ve I’ve made good things out of it as well.
K Anderson 1:04:51
Do you have any memories of The Village Station, or clubbing from your own queer scene that you want to share? Well, if you have please get in touch – I want to create the biggest online record of people’s memories and stories – go to http://www.lostspacespodcast.com and find the section ‘Share a Lost Space’ and tell me what you got up to! Bonus points for embarrassing photos!
You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as lostspacespod
Lost Spaces is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there and will be releasing songs over the next year. You can hear the first single, Well Groomed Boys, which is also playing underneath my talking right now, on all streaming platforms.
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I am K Anderson, and you’ve been listening to Lost Spaces