When I began doing drag and poetry reads, I was told I should pick a drag name to use when I perform. This was in the late 90’s when it was still a little risky to be doing drag because people would think you’re gay. Whether or not you were gay back then was a side note, you didn’t want people to think you were. Great strides were being made by the GLBT community, but in the small towns in middle America, you still had to watch your back.
Kinda like a porn name, your drag name would hopefully keep your employer in the dark so you don’t get fired for being a big homo, and your parents might not find out. I was performing for free at a fundraiser, not a big deal, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to keep my given name to myself. A quick survey showed me that lot of the drag names out there were pretty campy so I chose Rock Bottom. That was fun for a while, but then I moved to Minneapolis and noticed that people knew and called the drag kings by their drag names almost as much as, or more than, their given names. I couldn’t go around being called ‘Rock’. First of all I’m not. A ‘rock’ that is. And second, I’d never remember to answer to it. Not to mention there is a Rock Bottom brewery on Hennepin Ave and I can’t stand the taste of beer.
My name had to change.
My quest to find a new name began and ended quickly. Fox was easy, I would answer to Fox as had been known as Fox when I was a Girl Scout camp counselor, and there’s a reason for that. Most people think ‘oh yeah, big X-Files nut’, but no. I also understand why people might initially think of the animal or the foxiness of my person, but no, that’s only part of it too. I do feel a certain kinship with those foxes but the name ‘Fox’ goes still deeper.
When I was in my early teens my parents and I took a road trip around Lake Superior with our camper trailer. I was a deeply unhappy kid most of the time. Looking back, I’m fairly certain it was moderate depression, but I didn’t know that then. I just knew people sucked, life sucked and I generally sucked as well. I tried to perk up for my parents from time to time, but mostly I sat in the back seat listening to my headphones and reading, writing, or staring out the window lost in thought.
We’d stop to have lunch, or see sights, or just to stretch, and I’d wander off each time. I’d poke under bridges or search the lake shore for something worth picking up, until one day I came across this statue. It was a young man running on an artificial leg. I’m not talking about those new cheetah legs either. This thing was one of the old clunky, have to really swing the hip to get the thing to even think of going forward a step, artificial legs. This boy had been an athlete in high school and college, but was then diagnosed with osteosarcoma, (bone cancer). Having his right leg amputated slowed him down, it didn’t stop him, then in 1980 he dipped his foot into the Atlantic on the coast of Newfoundland and began his Marathon of Hope, a run to Victoria, B.C. He ran a marathon distance (26mi, or 42k) each day, save a few rest days, until 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi)in, he was forced to stop just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, not far from the statue I was looking up at, because the cancer had come back and spread to his lungs. By that point he had raised 1.7 million dollars with the goal of ending cancer.
The boy’s name?
If you are Canadian you already know, but I’m American and I had never heard of him until that day:
I’m known as Fox Smoulder because it’s fun and ‘gay’ and campy, but I’m known as Fox because of a young man I’d never met, who laid his life down to make a difference for others, who’s courage lead him to an accomplishment that surpassed anything I’d ever dreamed of. He changed my life forever. He changed a lot of lives forever. I’m called Fox to honor that strength, that courage, that determination, that will to strive.
And after that day at the base of that statue,
thought about killing myself again.
I’m called Fox, because I want to live with the kind of hope for the world that lead a young man with one leg down a lonely stretch of Canadian highway as far as he could possibly go.
“Dreams are made. If people only try. I believe in miracles… I have to… Because somewhere the hurting must stop.”
Terrance Stanley Fox
July 28, 1958 – June 28, 1981