When Daniel L Hays moved to the Washington area in 2006 to take a job as a legislative analyst with the U.S. Department of Labor, he thought the drag he’d done back in his native Missouri was behind him.
And for his first few years in D.C., that was the case.
“I called my drag family in, said, ‘Here’s all my stuff,’ and they basically took it all. I thought I was done,” Hays says. “I just didn’t think I’d ever do it again. But I met up with the Bottoms clan and they had seen photos of what I’d done before so that’s when it started up again in about 2010.”
Known these days as Muffy Blake Stephyns — she had different last names in different iterations — Hays says drag is both a way to unwind and give something back.
“I love that I can be involved and bring awareness to other groups through charity shows,” he says.
That’s exactly how it started with his work with the Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance (AGLA). The group has its Miss Gay Arlington pageant tonight at 8 p.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar (555 23rd Street, Arlington; $10 cover) where contestants will be judged in several categories in an event dubbed “The Glittery Rainbow Connection.” Reigning Miss Gay Arlington Stardust will be honored and a prize package valued at $900 is at stake. Details are available at agla.org.
Miss Gay Arlington started in 2011. Hays, crowned in January as Miss Gay Zodiac in the Academy of Washington, says it’s a way to “increase awareness and activities of AGLA events with a different demographic of people.”
Hays, 38, and his partner Patrick Frieslander, live in Old Town Alexandria with their two cats Xena and Cleo. He enjoys politics, drag, singing, antiques, travel and LGBT activism in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I have been totally out since 2004, though most responded with, “Yes, I know.” 2004 is when “the conversation” was had with my father. My father was the hardest to tell, in large part because he is a Southern Baptist deacon.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Harvey Milk. I keep a poster in my cubicle with a picture of him and his famous “you gotta give ‘em hope” quotation.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
The best place to be is not any particular establishment; it’s wherever my friends are. But if I have to choose a bar I would say Freddie’s, which makes everyone feel at home, even our straight allies. And Freddie does so much to support the community.
Describe your dream wedding.
A gathering of my family (biological and drag) along with a few other close friends to witness my partner and I commit our lives to one another, followed by a destination honeymoon with a few of our closest friends being invited to join us as we celebrate the happiest day of our lives.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Health care. I have had epilepsy since I was 13 years old. I am fortunate to have always had health insurance; otherwise the medical bills would have eaten me alive. A nation with the riches we collectively have should not have anyone being forced to make decisions about whether to get treatment or take medication based upon their ability to pay.
What historical outcome would you change?
In recent history I would have changed the outcome of Bush v. Gore and had Al Gore sworn in as the 43rd president of the United States.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The funeral of Princess Diana.
On what do you insist?
Being true to myself, and not caving to the pressures of society to conform to a particular image or stereotype. I have been fortunate to have an incredible drag mother, Shelby Blake Stephyns, who taught me this.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
As you make your plans for the weekend remember to join us for the 2013 Miss Gay Arlington pageant on Friday at 8 p.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Christian Panties: The Secret to Good Livin’”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Say thanks but no thanks. I am just fine the way God made me. I’m going to continue being true to myself.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in God, however I don’t buy into the idea that any one religious sect has a claim on what/who God is. For me, God is a higher power that transcends religious and cultural divides and calls us each to be the best we can be, and in the process fulfilling his/her image of us.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Stick to the basics. The goal is equal rights for all. We are not after gay rights, or some special treatment; we are after equal rights for all, no exceptions.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Lady Bunny’s wigs — I live for big hair.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
Discrimination in any form annoys me. Unfortunately too many times the LGBT community falls into the trap of discriminating against and among us.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Most all of them — be true to you.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I’ve never really set my life goals around trophies or prizes. That being said winning the title of Miss Gaye Zodiac (D.C.) was a great honor, but RuPaul if you are reading this I’d love to headline your next tour.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
The freedom that being true to one’s self brings.
A job that pays the bills!