By Frances Clause
“There’s such a great sense of community in Youngstown and the surrounding areas that I can’t even try to paint my story into being a difficult one,” Camilla Keener said, referring to the support in her journey of becoming a trans woman.
The large, energetic crowd that attended the drag show at the 11th annual Youngstown Pride Saturday to support Keener’s drag persona, Pineapple, made that support evident.
“A few kids told me that this was their first pride ever and that watching me performing and meeting me made it special,” she said. “It’s super important for us to show our pride and have an event children can go to.”
Although some people did not support her transition or interest in drag, Keener said love has always outweighed the hate.
“During my performance, my whole family was sitting at one table right in front,” she said. “When I finished, my mom hugged me crying because she was so proud of me doing what I love to do.”
Keener said her mom is nothing but loving and supportive.
“She loves me no less than before I was trans and doesn’t treat me like any different of a person,” she said.
This was Keener’s first time performing at Youngstown Pride, but she first attended the event in middle school.
“Pride was where I saw what the gay community was really about,” she said. “It was so special to me, and I’m glad I got to perform here all these years later.”
At first, Keener was unsure if her transition would allow her to qualify as a drag queen.
“Then I realized, trans women do drag. Cis woman do drag. Straight men do drag. Anyone who wants to do drag does drag,” she said.
A female performance artist who adopts the typical style of male drag queens is known as a faux queen, bio queen or diva queen.
Knowing people would see her in drag and assume she is a man, Keener understands and takes a moment to educate them on common drag misconceptions.
“At the end of the day, if I believe what I’m presenting and believe that I’m the most sickening girl in the room, the audience will catch that energy,” she said, referring to her performances as Pineapple.
Erica Jones, a senior music education major at Youngstown State University, has been friends with Keener since 2008 and has supported her through all of her endeavors.
“After Camilla came out as trans, she was still the same positive and funny friend I had known for years but carried herself more confidently,” she said.
Because Keener hadn’t built a feminine wardrobe yet, Jones said she allowed her to borrow a few of her clothes.
“Since then, that confidence has only grown stronger, and I think that is definitely clear to the audiences of her drag performances,” she said.
Jones believes Keener’s passion for what she does and unapologetically being herself is what inspires others.
“Through supporting Camilla, I have learned that anyone who comes out as transgender is making the decision to not spend the rest of their life pretending to be something they’re not,” she said.