By Da’Sha Tuck, Staff writer
Growing up an army brat and attending a Catholic school, Sam Bussey, Murray State alumna from Paducah, Kentucky, had doubts about coming out, but now she is confident and displays that confidence in drag.
“It was one of those things, as I got older I thought maybe I’d grow out of it,” Bussey said. “I remember talking to myself saying ‘It’s just a phase, it will go away, I bet everyone has these thoughts.’ So I suppressed them.”
Bussey said she also worried about what her family would think.
In order to try and fit into the standard, Bussey dated a guy throughout the majority of her high school career. When that ended, Bussey met her first girlfriend and everything changed, she said.
It wasn’t until Bussey’s sophomore year at Murray State that she outwardly revealed her true self.
“Finally, I was just like I’m tired of hiding all this stuff, I can’t do it anymore,” Bussey said. “I’m not even who I want to be and I have suppressed this for so long that I just can’t help it anymore.”
Bussey said she remembers the first time she told her mom she was a lesbian.
“I remember telling my mom there were going to be a lot of changes happening and for her not to freak out,” Bussey said.
After a back and forth conversation with her mother, neither of them wanting to actually say the words, Bussey said her mom finally just looked at her and said “I know, and I have known but I don’t care.”
Bussey said having her mother openly accept her was an immense relief. She said she had always heard horrible stories about parents shunning their children after admitting they were gay or lesbian. Bussey said she is very lucky to have the mother she has.
She also said her brother was very supportive. He told Bussey he would never marry a woman who did not accept her.
Bussey’s father, on the other hand, was not supportive of Bussey’s identity. She said that was difficult for her to deal with but she has moved past it.
Trudging Through Trial and Error
Bussey said after she came out to her family, she went through a trial and error phase trying to figure out who she was and who she wanted to be.
“I went through this hip-hop stage where I wore baggy jeans, Echo, Rocawear and all these flat-bill hats,” Bussey said. “That wasn’t me at all and I didn’t like it.”
She said after a while and a few more style attempts she let go of worrying about dressing to a stereotype and just dressed in whatever she felt comfortable wearing.
“I don’t want to say I developed a certain style,” she said. “I just found me.”
She said her confidence began to flourish and those around her could tell she was happy.
Becoming Trey Rawlings
Bussey said she first heard about the Murray State Alliance her second year. Once she heard about the drag shows, she said she was immediately interested.
Alliance is an organization on campus that is focused on supporting LGBT Racers and allies, which are people who don’t necessarily identify as LGBT but are in support.
The first drag show Bussey performed in was in the Fall of 2007.
Alliance hosts a drag show twice a year. All the proceeds go to Alliance to help further their mission.
Even though Bussey had never even been to a drag show, she was determined and confident she would perform in the next one, she said.
Jody Cofer Randall, coordinator of LGBT Programming, has known Bussey since she first began performing in drag. Randall has seen Bussey progress from her first drag show to last spring’s show.
“I remember encouraging Sam to get up on that stage and explore the world of drag because I knew Sam had the makings of a really fun entertainer,” Cofer Randall said.
Bussey said looking back her first drag performance was a learning experience. She remembers it very vividly and described it with a smile.
With her first show behind her, Bussey began to refine her image as a drag king. She needed a name.
“For some reason, my friend and I had this inside joke about trees and she kept saying tree, tree, tree,” Bussey said. “Then it hit me, Trey. My name would be Trey.”
She said as she was thinking, she was looking around her room when she happened to see a basketball and started playing with the idea of Spalding as a last name. Eventually, though, she decided on Rawlings, instead.
Trey Rawlings has been stealing the show ever since. Bussey said she was shocked the first time a student came up to him as Trey after a drag show wanting to take a picture with him. She said it was unreal.
“I felt like I was portraying this character that may have been someone I wanted to be but not necessarily,” Bussey said. “I just felt so confident as this person to be receiving all this attention because just as Sam, I never got that.”
Bussey said performing in drag is a great experience because the performer gets to be someone else for a while. She said normally, people don’t get that opportunity but with drag its possible.
While Rawlings was continuing to flesh out his image, he met a friend who soon became his “Drag Mom:” Chris Moorehead.
Rawlings and Moorehead quickly became close as Moorehead began to guide Rawlings as he became more prominent in drag. Moorehead helped Rawlings design costumes, routines and further shape his image.
Rawlings continued to perform in Alliance’s drag shows until Bussey graduated in 2010.
After graduation, Bussey went to law school, passed the bar and currently works at a law firm in Paducah.
But she has not been able to stay away from drag. Rawlings never stopped coming back each year to perform in Alliance’s drag shows.
Those who have seen Rawlings perform were sad to see him go after graduation.
“I worried that after Sam graduated from Murray State and went to law school, we would lose their talent, but Sam has returned for what I think has been every show to publicly give back to the Alliance and Murray State,” Cofer Randall said.
This year, Rawlings will be hosting as well as performing.
Alliance is hosting its Fall Glamour Drag Show Thursday, Sept. 22. It will be held in the Curris Center Ballroom and the doors open at 6:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $10 and students get in for $7 with a student ID.
Rawlings said as much as he enjoys the attention he gets from fans, he wants everyone to know Bussey is taken and couldn’t be happier.
Her girlfriend said she enjoys the shows.
“Naturally, other girls give heart-eyed stares while she’s Trey, and that can be a little unnerving at times,” said Paige Holshouser, Bussey’s girlfriend, from Paducah. “But then I remember that I was one of those girls a few years ago.”
Students can come out this Thursday and support Murray State Alliance and all the kings and queens who will be performing at this year’s Glamour Drag Show.
“People tip, and once I even found a rolled up dollar with a phone number inside my pants,” Bussey said.