The drag performer, 37, talks about being teetotal, fighting homophobia and setting fire to her mums kitchen

Everyone has something in the closet, whether its your sexuality, your history, or a deeply held secret. Coming out is just getting to grips with those skeletons and feeling free enough to share them without fear. I first came out in second grade. One kid in my class made me feel bold enough to say I was different, even if I didnt have the words as a child in Delaware to explain exactly how.

I set my house on fire as a teenager when I was cooking and went for a gossip on the phone. I came back and the whole kitchen was ablaze and I became enveloped in an inferno, with second-degree burns. I know my mother worked really hard for what little we had, and I literally burned it to the ground, but it taught me that stop, drop and roll really does work.

Drag gave me the keys to my gender, my sexuality and my gender expression, too. For a lot of people drag is just a job or a character, but for me drag has always been sacred. When I first visited New York aged 17 in drag (having got dressed on the bus) I was being a woman. It was more important than anything else in my life.

Nobody got paid in the 90s in New York City. When I started working at the Tunnel club in Chelsea I offered to work for free. At some point I got driven upstate in full drag to have my top opened up by a dwarf who fondled my breasts on camera, and I didnt get a penny. Dont look for the movie though, itll burn your eyes.

I tried champagne once and it made me drunk, but aside from that Ive never touched drugs or booze, even when I was working the New York clubs in their 90s hedonistic heyday. There was alcoholism in my family. My aunt sat me down and explained that I was an alcoholic by predisposition so I decided never to risk it.

Ru Pauls Drag Race has given us a voice. Thats not to say its without its flaws there has been controversy regarding language like tranny on the show but I have a bigger picture in mind. Im able to say Im the first out transgender finalist, the closest to the crown of any trans woman.

People arent really afraid trans people will pee in their bathrooms. The bigots arent scared theyll be forced to attend our weddings or bake us big old queer cakes either. Homophobic and transphobic people are afraid theyre just like us. And they are. Tolerance is not good enough. I dont want acceptance. I want celebration.

I didnt choose to be an activist. Really anyone who lives their life openly in a form that opposes the status quo is one. Delivering this body to the world is my greatest achievement, through all the disadvantages, the discrimination and the violence. If youre unapologetic in living your life, in accessing what others can, then youre an activist.

Donald Trump doesnt scare me. My bloodline has gone through slavery and through the Stonewall riots. Weve been through horrible times, but theres nothing he can do to erase us or the progress that weve made. Weve tasted freedom and we wont easily give it up.

Project Peppermint will premiere in 2018 (projectpeppermint.com)

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jul/29/peppermint-drag-gave-me-the-keys-to-my-gender-and-sexuality