Hear from Elijah Kinne as he reflects on how God uses us in the most unexpected ways and in the most unexpected places in his first blog ‘Who Knew’.
There I stood on the platform of Banbury Rail station on a cold spring afternoon wondering where the heck I just landed. Slowly rotating, my gaiety ebbing away at the proximity of what seemed to be some sort of abandoned industrial estate. The sort of place where hopes go to die.
I grabbed all three bags I had hauled from London, along with my wig box, and made my way to the entrance where I was could expect to meet “Perky Helen.”
This all came about three months prior, when out of the blue I received a cryptic email from the lovely ladies of the Chacombe Women’s Institute of Northamptonshire. In the email which contained the phrases “if you don’t mind,” and “sorry to ask” more times than I could count, I eventually pieced together that they had heard of me as a Drag Queen in London and wondered if I might consider addressing them on the art of drag. The request was hard to resist: “We really would love to delve into the depths of subcultures! Also, Judith’s husband, Frank, loves wearing dresses!”
The arrangements were made, the date was set, and before too long, there I was, exiting the train station looking for ‘Perky Helen’. I’m not quite sure what I was looking for when ‘perky’ was the guiding parameter, however my eyes latched onto a 60-something-year-old waving frantically from the inside of a smart car, lights flashing. “That looks perky,” I said to myself and headed over.
Helen was lovely. She smiled and laughed as we drove the smart car through the countryside, my 6-foot-4 inch frame and all my bags crammed into what felt like an unsafe shoe box. The view got progressively more beautiful as we left the industrial estate and after 30 minutes of driving, we arrived in the picturesque village of Chacombe. Perky Helen bragged about the pub and the little garden centre that HRH Camilla had visited recently as we wound our way through the village. We stopped at her house: a charming old stone cottage. It was here that I was to “Transform”.
An hour later I was wedging my heels on whilst ducking from the low ceilings. Helen ushered my out the house declaring that we were late. Folding myself into the shoe box – now in corset, heels, wig, and body forms – I felt like an éclair jammed though a keyhole. We sped through the village, racing our way to the town hall. As we blazed past the village green my eye caught sight of several wooden placards jammed into the ground with pictures of my face on it, bright red lettering announcing simply: ‘Tonight!’ I tried not to laugh but it came tumbling out of me. Helen always up for jollity, asked what made me laugh. I said it was the placards. They made me feel like the freak show was in town and this was your one night to get a glimpse of the beast.
We swung into the gravel parking lot (heels and gravel, not good) and stopped. As I climbed out, I mused how bizarre this was. I was about to give a lecture to the ladies the of the Chacombe W.I. About drag. In drag! Most likely the first ever seen in this sleepy village, besides Frank, of course.
I stepped inside, the chatter of the ladies in the hall coming through the double doors. Helen said she would go in and ‘calm them down’ and then introduce me, at which point I would come out. I could hear her over the mic saying how privileged they were to have me and so on. All I could think of was how lucky I was to be a part of something educational like this for a bunch of ladies who may never have come in contact with the likes of me.
I ducked though the double doors of the hall. If you’ve ever seen a David Attenborough series, you’ll be familiar with the inevitable scene featuring a three-legged, blind, deaf, gazelle by itself on the savanna being sized up by 30 pairs of gleaming hungry eyes. This is precisely how I felt in that moment I was exposed to the first gazes of the lovely ladies of Chacombe WI. I was not sure if I was about to be burnt at the stake or worshiped as a new found god. The tension broke as the ladies erupted into cheers and smiles. The long and short of it was that the evening was a success. I was hailed as “the BEST thing we have had here since John brought in his miniature railway!” I took this as the supreme compliment it seemed to be.
I’m telling you this story because something wonderful happened after the talk. I was sitting on a stool and one by one the women came up for a picture and a chat with the beast. One woman approached and said, “You mentioned in your talk that you work for a church as well as drag? Well my daughter has been having a rough time recently…” She couldn’t go any further as the tears filled her eyes, and she started to murmur. I got up and gave her a hug and said I would love to speak with her. From around the corner she waved her daughter over.
Suzie explained to me very quietly that she loved drag and followed a bunch of artists on YouTube and loved practicing makeup in her spare time. But recently had been feeling overwhelmed and anxious about not being loved, especially by God. “I’ve come out as trans, and my friends have left me. I’m feeling very alone. I don’t feel loved anymore. And my church hasn’t been great.”
I could barely keep it together myself when she was talking, but over the next half hour we sat, drank tea, and talked about how much love God had for her. At the end, we hugged for a long time. She left having exchanged details, looking back and waving as she went though the town hall doors.
I am always surprised at the way God uses who I am in the most unexpected ways and in the most unexpected places. Who knew drag, Jesus, and the Chacombe W.I. were all such close friends.
A presentation of Drag
Elijah in drag at Saint James’s Cabaret
Saturday 30 April at 7.30pm
Join us for an evening of excitement, bewilderment and laughter, all for a good cause. With music, drag, singing, dancing and performance, our cabaret evening will have you rolling in the pews with laughter.