My name is Timothy Byars. I’m from Wichita Falls, Texas.
Every time the church doors were open, we were there. My granny was – played the piano every Sunday and Wednesday. My dad was the praise and worship minister. My mom worked in the nursery and she was the youth minister. I didn’t know what gay was until about the second grade when I realized I was full-on in love with this boy in school and I was crying and I because I didn’t ever find a boy who felt the same way.
And then I heard somebody call me gay and I was like, “Maybe that’s what I am.” And then they said in a bad way and they kept saying over and over again what a bad thing it was. And my parents were always using me as the butt of those kind of jokes growing up.
When I was 17, I was kinda outed because there’s a thing called XY.com and I wasn’t really good at deleting my cookies at the moment, and my parents found that. And so they outed me and it was painful. I was going to hell. Immediately they called my pastor over to talk some sense into me. They said they would never love my choice in a lover. They would never be at my wedding. They would never invite him over for dinner. You can never stay the night. They would never come to my house if he was going to be there. Things like that.
And then October of my senior year, they wanted to get me away from that gay kid at school, so they moved me to The Dalles, Oregon. Population about 10,000. The nearest city: Portland, Oregon. And at that time I’d already been outed and so I was like, I’m not going back in. So I started with a clean slate. I got on Myspace and started looking for some gay people, found my drag mother Jersey Scities, and started going to the all-ages nightclub and sort of performing as a boy.
And then we did drag as a gag one night for my grandmother, and my mom and dad were like, “Oh, we were just – knew this was a matter of time until this happened. Ugh. We knew. Does this mean you want to be a woman, Timothy?” Using my whole name and everything.
Now, at this point, me getting into drag was not even a big deal because my parents had started being okay with me being gay. My boyfriend would take my mom to lunch while I was at school and I didn’t know about that. Every now and then, he could come over for dinner. After we broke up, I started going to Portland a lot and I actually moved in with a couple friends and I started doing drag.
My mom was like, “Well, I guess you’re gonna be a girl now, aren’t you?”
And I was like, “No, I don’t want to be a girl. I’ve never wanted to be a girl. I just think it’s fun to perform.” They would never ever want to see a picture. They don’t even care to know her name, nothing. Talked about her like, you know, an ex-girlfriend that stole a lot of money. They just don’t like her.
Then I ran for Miss Junior Pride and I have a lot of pictures and for the first time, I remember sitting in my mom’s front yard – they were doing a yard sale and I’d drive in from Portland, where I was living in the time, to The Dalles to spend the weekend with them.
And she was like, “So what have you been up to? You still dressing like a girl?”
And I was like, “Actually, I made a lot of friends. I’m really good at this. People like me. People tip me. I feel like a little star. I moved from doing amateur nights to now I’m on cast.”
And she finally looked at it and she goes, “Wow, you are pretty.” And the little curiosity bug was planted into my mom’s head that day. And then one night I am at the show just finished my first number and I’m going downstairs. My co-host is running the show. And I’m talking people – dadadadada – all of a sudden, I hear upstairs on the microphone music in between and I was like, why is this break taking so long? And I hear my co-host talking to somebody. I’m like, god, there’s a drunk lady here.
And then – “Do you want to hear about Timothy when he was a little boy?”
Immediately I grab my microphone and I’m like, “Robert, hit play. The next person to the stage, please welcome…” I was like, “Get her off the microphone. Get her off the microphone right now.”
Everybody’s loving it, like “Your mom is so much fun.”
And I was like, “Oh my god.”
Then one night, I was backstage and I just – I was feeling real good about my body again. Shaved my legs up and I was just wearing, like, this little patch, this little piece of fabric glued to my butt and like this thing glued around my neck to cover my tits. And I’m doing the song that I do by Sweet Pussy Pauline. Thirty seconds before I go on stage, my overtures on, I’m ready.
All of a sudden, Jersey goes, “You didn’t tell me your dad was coming in tonight.”
And I was like, “Hmm?” Dad would never come to a show.
“Girl look out there. He is front and center with your mom right now.”
And I was like, “I’m doing Sweet Pussy Pauline first. Can we change -”
All of a sudden, “Welcome to the stage…” And I had to go on stage. There was no way to change the song. No way to change my costume. So almost as naked as the day I was born doing every word I was sworn not to do as a kid. My dad is front row laughing and cutting up. My mom is having a good time, too. She already drunk, too. And then they started coming all the days after that.
One of the days that really I know changed the way that I knew my dad saw me was when I won the trip from New York – er, from Portland to New York and I decided to move out there. The last night before my show, I’m on stage doing “Leaving on a Jet Plane. And my dad comes up with two dozen roses. And I lose it. And I just see him standing there and I spent half of the song crying into my daddy’s arms, who was there to see his daughter doing her final number before she goes to pursue her dreams in New York. That was one of the most life-changing moments I’ve ever had, to see that. To the point where we had to start the song over again so everybody else could tip during my number because I was just a mess.
Now, my dad, he runs my website. He made my first line of merch, my first tee shirts, my first stickers, my first fan cards that I sign and give out – my fan cards at my show. My mom, now she does embroidery for my hats and for my tote bags. And they flew out to Dallas, two weeks ago to go watch me to compete in a pageant.
To go from, “I’m going to hell” and that they’ll never love any of my lovers, to now: they’re the presidents of my fan club and my dad is pushing for me to be on Drag Race. And when I do get on Drag Race, he wants to be my manager, you know, and if I never make it on Drag Race and I hit it big in some other way, he wants to be my manager. And I think I’m a trust him to do that. I call it his retirement plan. He can take care of me.
It’s a pretty amazing change. I gotta remind myself constantly how lucky I am because there’s so many kids who are still kicked out, who were still exiled, who were still verbally being categorized by their parents. You know, they’re still using them for jokes in the family. And that’s not me anymore.
Surround yourself with people who love you that much that people who love you are either going to rise to the occasion or they’re going to fall behind. Either way, you’re going to have a family who loves you. And if you can be the loving person – if you can bring the loving people around – that’s just as contagious as hate is.
And if there’s parents who need to know what to do, give it a try. I’m not saying go to the bar and get messed up or go to a brunch show. I’m saying get to know the people before you judge what kind of people they are.