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Arts & Culture

We Are Idaho: Crispin Gravatt/ Penelope Windsor

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Courtesy of Crispin Gravatt
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My name is Crispin Gravatt. I am from Boise, Idaho, and I also go by the stage name Penelope Windsor.

I always had a draw to performing. I started out in theater and really wanted to take to the stage in any way that I could, whether that's acting or helping set the stage, doing lights, technical theater, that sort of thing. And I did that all throughout high school. When I started at Boise State, I found the world of drag entertainment as a really great outlet for that creative urge that I have.

After years of experience, you know, being bullied for being a queer person here in Idaho, I've found that it is absolutely essential to really live forward and live in a way that is really public and present and pushes the envelope because that just makes the envelope a little bit bigger and gives other folks a little more room to ultimately be themselves in a way that's most comfortable and most true to themselves.

When I first started connecting the dots and seeing the larger political world that impacts things like education, impacts things like LGBTQ rights. After I started exploring the political implications of things, I started volunteering with a number of different organizations and ultimately that led me to the decision to run for office. I ran for Boise City Council in 2016, and in a lot of ways that was motivated by a desire to make it easier for the next out person to run for office, because we need more folks who are out and visible.

"The blending of politics and drag performance is really effortless for me, because they are essentially one in the same. Being out and very public, just about who I am, is itself a political act. And throwing on eight layers of makeup in addition to that makes it even more visible, even more out, and even more political."

I had very different expectations of what running for office would be versus what it actually was.

There were actually a number of folks who were organizing to utilize homophobic tactics and other scare tactics against me to prevent my success, to prevent pushing that envelope and making more space for LGBTQ folks here in Boise. And that continues even to this day. It is a rough journey. There are the same folks going out and utilizing these same scare tactics, these same homophobic, transphobic, queerphobic tactics against folks who are running for office right now. And I do have faith that those are not as effective today as they once were. But the fact that it is still occurring means that there is still a lot of work to do.

My experience running for office has definitely lit a fire under me to do more. And that's when I started diving into the combination of artistic outlets through drag performance and political initiatives.

The blending of politics and drag performance is really effortless for me, because they are essentially one in the same. Being out and very public just about who I am is itself a political act. And throwing on eight layers of makeup in addition to that makes it even more visible, even more out, and even more political. 

So once all of the world changed from COVID-19 complications, myself and a number of people shifted to doing online shows, submitting video performances to give folks something to smile about as everything else felt so horrible. 

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Credit Courtesy of Crispin Gravatt
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Penelope Windsor hosting The Virgin Show, where new performers take the stage for the first time.

Ultimately, for me at least, the art of drag is about breaking down barriers. Whether those are breaking down barriers between the real and the fantasy or breaking down barriers of what gender is and can be or breaking barriers to actually participating in the world of the arts or whether those are breaking down barriers to the political process. Breaking down those really big chunks of information that can seem daunting and prevent people from actually learning and engaging and participating in fighting for their rights.

Drag gives me the opportunity to make those bits digestible, make those bits more easily accessible to people who might not otherwise engage. Ultimately at the end of the day, all that I can hope for is that I make the world a little bit easier to navigate for at least a few people.

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

We Are Idaho features Idahoans from all walks of life telling their stories of living here in their own words.