I wore red spike heels and she wore an ivory hijab. Her coffee brown skirt swept the ground while my fur-trimmed denim jacket fluttered behind me. She was a Muslim woman named Nadea who happened to be walking next to me, a drag queen from Ohio. We couldn’t have come from more diverse backgrounds. Yet it was on that chilly night before the Trump inauguration that we both found ourselves walking to the rally in Columbus Circle. By chance, we were both searching for the people we were supposed to meet. Neither of us had a clue where to start so it only made sense that we should navigate the dimly lit crowd together.
A throng of empowered hopefuls wrapped in scarves and armed with their principles flooded us on all sides as we began our trek through Central Park. We followed our ears down the first hillside listening to someone with a microphone and a lot to say. Each time we paused to evaluate our surroundings and the density of protesters staring up at the street-side stage, we both agreed that we could still get closer. Looking at the muddy lawn we were about to walk up, Nadea offered a helping hand if my heels got stuck. By this point, sunk heels weren’t about to stop me from seeing that stage.
As we circumnavigated the crowd, I admitted to Nadea that there was no way I was going to find my friends in the dark. Still, I wanted to show my support the best way I could. It was nice to know that we shared that same notion. With so much going on in our country, it was time for the gloves to come off. Making sure that we both made it safely up the hill, we were finally blocked by the wall on the southwestern edge of the park. However, we caught a small sightline of the main stage so we decided to park our tired carcasses. Knowing how much my feet must’ve hurt, she found a place for us both to lean against the stone barrier and watch.
Both of us stood there, shivering in the cold, and that was when I realized that we both had the same passionate spirit, we were just dressed a little differently. A Muslim woman who, up until twenty minutes ago, didn’t know a thing about me offered me leaning space on that wall because we found more common ground than just what was on that muddy Central Park hillside. As celebrities, councilmen, activists, and nurse practitioners spoke, my thoughts turned to how two people from such wildly different backgrounds arrived at the same conclusion: Friendship would save us.
It will be easy to let fear control us knowing there will be tough challenges ahead for our country. The best way I know to start that journey is to reach out my hand and ask someone their name. Our reasons for standing up are all dressed a little differently. True friendship doesn’t care what you wear because it looks the same within our hearts. I will always remember the woman who stood alongside me by that stone wall believing in friendship, who just happened to wear an ivory hijab.
Philip McLeod, aka Shirley U. Jest is a New York City drag queen. Her show, “Jest the Tip”, can be seen every Tuesday night at Rockbar. For more info on Shirley, check out our interview with her from last year here.