Roxane Gay

Boys in Drag

They do it because they think it’s funny and they don’t know any better. They borrow their girlfriends’ skirts and silky panties and matching bras and sexy tank tops. They use eyeliner to draw tramp stamps on their lower backs. They slide their calloused feet into high heels and prance around, grotesquely cupping their imaginary breasts even though they’ve never, not ever seen a woman prance around cupping her breasts, not even in a strip club.

They stand in front of the mirror in the grimy frat house bathroom. They don’t see the stray beard shavings and wisps of pubic hair and damp footprints on the tile and the molded calcium lining the faucet. They ignore the stench of piss and aftershave and industrial cleaning products. They stand in front of the mirror making dick jokes that echo off the floor as they redden their lips in broad strokes, get a little paint on their teeth. They suck in their cheeks, apply blush, always too much. They blink their eyes, try to darken their lashes. They cry. They stand, hands on hips, turn to one side, then the other. They finger their ribcages. They look down at their hairy legs. Some of them shave. They laugh.

A few of them don’t put on their heels until they get downstairs. It would be dangerous to negotiate the rise and fall four inches from the ground so they hold the delicate straps of their shoes between their thick fingers and make their way to the ground floor on the tips of their toes.

In the den, an X-rated movie is playing on the big screen television, the kind with the big tube in the back. They open beers and turn up the music and soon the girls start arriving, wearing skirts and tank tops and red lips and they prance and they dance and make out with each other and drink warm beer and then they sit on the laps of the boys in drag and make out with them too.

They take pictures, then flip their cameras around and laugh and shout, “Dude!” They bring out the hard stuff and pour open bottles into open mouths.

The girls adjust hem lengths and fix make up and give the boys lessons on walking in heels while drunk. They teeter. They totter. They fall, knees pressed together, into crumpled heaps. They’ll go out on the porch and light cigarettes. The girls will lean into waiting arms and dirty dance back to chest and yell mean things to fat girls and ugly boys scurrying by.

Eventually the girls stumble home or they crawl up the stairs and spread their legs and laugh as the boys in drag lift their skirts and kneel between numb thighs and thrust and groan and pull out and come. The girls and boys dressed like girls pass out, half-naked, not satisfied, in beds covered with sweaty gym clothes and blazers, day old pizza, Shakespeare, homework. When they wake, they taste it all on their breath.

The boys downstairs will sit on armrests and stained coffee tables and dirty couches in their wrinkled skirts and sagging tank tops, spaghetti straps halfway down their arms. They will drink flat beer and melted Jello shots. They won’t look each other. They won’t even talk.

Roxane Gay's writing appears or is forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Annalemma,The Collagist, Gargoyle, DIAGRAM, Monkeybicycle 7 and others. She is the co-editor of PANK and can be found online at


  1. Terrible. This is embarrassing, why did you think anyone would care about this?

  2. How is it embarrassing? It's strange, intriguing fiction.

  3. No, it's not strange, intriguing fiction. Neither is it just bad fiction. It's bad writing.

  4. It goes nowhere, does nothing, but sees all. Maybe that's the point of its acute observation? To say, "look at this scene," which sounds like the past tense of seeing. But maybe what it sees at the end, the cross-dressed boys who just watched porn but didn't get involved with the girls upstairs, is something, after all: a question (or a set of questions)? Is this the form being in the closet takes, for college fraternity guys in the usual mold, or is it just the option the less promiscuous / more shy / less attractive guys have left? (Both?) Because it's unclear to me (after combing the tenses of the verbs) whether the boys downstairs are down there the night of or the morning after. Textually the description happens after "they wake," but textually need not imply temporally. So I'm not sure whether Roxane intended this ambiguity or not, but it's serviceable.