The Perils of Petunia Pap Smear

The Birth of a Queen

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My name is Petunia Pap-Smear and this column is the beginning of my story as a gay Mormon boy living in the “Crossroads Of The West,” coping with whatever the world decides to throw my way.

A long, long time ago, during the Eisenhower administration, (in gay years, this makes me older than God’s dog) in a galaxy far, far away from West Hollywood, namely Cache Valley, I was born. According to the Chinese calendar, it was the Year of the Cock, how lucky am I?

I am a fifth-generation Cache Valley native, my ancestors having done the whole pioneer thing in the 1800s. This means that my historical roots go much further than my actual roots, which need another bottle of Clairol even as we speak.

I was born on a potato and sheep farm in Dayton, a very small farming town (OK, “town” might be considered a gross exaggeration) in the Idaho end of Cache Valley (I always fantasized that it was “Cash” Valley and we were all rich and fabulous like Alexis Colby on Dynasty).

According to Mormon tradition, when I was a month old, my father blessed me in the Dayton Ward House on the first Sunday in June. The very next day after the blessing, they tore the church house down to make way for a new one. Of course, with me crossing the threshold, they would need to get rid of the evidence posthaste before J. Edgar Hoover’s Salt Lake friends found out. You should see the home movie they made when they attached a chain to the steeple and pulled it down with a tractor — very dramatic, just like when they pulled down Saddam Hussein’s statue with the tank.

The demolition of the church building was perhaps the first sign that all would not go as officially planned for this little Mormon prince, or should I say, princess? Little did Jack and Orthea (yes that’s my mom’s real name, a composite of Orson and Althea) nor anyone else realize that I would grow up to be a full-fledged, rainbow flag-waving, high heel-wearing, sheep tending “Ida-Homo.” The only problem being the outrunning of the sheep. It’s hard to do in heels!

Upon reaching adulthood, (I’ve always said that I may be getting older but I refuse to grow up) it became time for me to put away girlish things (meaning the Suzy Homemaker oven that I stole from my sister) and become the full-fledged queen that I apparently was meant to be. It was time to choose a drag name.

As I understand it, there are a couple of rules that govern how an up-and-coming drag queen gets her name.

1. Use your childhood pet’s name as your first name.

2. Use your mother’s maiden name or the name of the street where you lived as a child as your last name.

Honestly, my childhood pet’s name was Fluffy.

My mother’s maiden name was Cox.

The country road that I lived on had the unofficial name of “Balls Avenue.” I kid you not because five families named Balls lived on the road. One of them was even named Harold (Harry) Balls, for real! The name permutations could have been Fluffy Cox or Fluffy Balls.

Since I was a “high-minded wannabe” and the possessor of a fabulous pink feather boa, I didn’t think either of these names sounded very dignified. Being civic-minded, like all good queens should be, I chose a name that would help remind people of good health practices. I learned at the National Gay Men’s Health Summit, after the naked sunrise frolic workshop (true, we got naked, danced around to 70s music, and jerked our neighbor off as we watched the sunrise), that every person should get a pap-smear on a regular basis. I think this must be to check for hangnails, worms or scurvy, or some damned thing. Oh, they don’t make workshops like that anymore. Too bad!

With my new name, miniskirt, size 14 pumps, and a borrowed wig, I threw some glitter into my mustache and delved into the world of drag. I was part of a threesome called “The Full-Figured Girls.”

Alas, I do not make a glamorous queen. Such is the tragedy that we all can not be as fabulous as Crystal Carrington. “Butt Ugly” is probably the best that I could ever hope for. Perhaps I could be a stand-in for the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

So here we are in 2008, and I present myself and my stories of conquest and defeat to you. I’m a geriatric drag queen with no style or grace facing life’s perils as they are thrown at me, but I sure am having fun with it. To quote Auntie Mame, “You’ve got to Live! Live! Live! Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

This story leaves us with several burning questions:

  1. What exactly does a pap-smear check for?
  2. If I had used “Fluffy Cox” as my name do you think I could be a spokesperson for Viagra?
  3. Had I been reported to J. Edgar Hoover, do you think that he and I could have shared dresses and make-up tips?
  4. I wonder if Harry Balls was permanently traumatized?
  5. Would the Coffee Garden object to a naked sunrise frolic workshop?
  6. Is it tasteful to wear a miniskirt when you are a size 24?
  7. How long can you tastefully let your roots grow between dye jobs?
  8. At what point does a geriatric queen morph into a troll?
  9. At that point will someone assign me a bridge to live under or must I find one myself?

These and other burning questions to be answered in future chapters of The Perils of Petunia Pap-Smear.

Petunia Pap Smear

Petunia Pap Smear was born a boy in a Mormon family in a small Idaho town in the year of the cock. No, really, look it up. As is LDS tradition, at a month old her father blessed the little Petunia in the ward house on the first Sunday in June. The very next day, they tore the church house down. Probably for good reason. Little did parents Jack and Orthea know that their little boy would grow up to be a full-fledged, rainbow flag-waving, high heel-wearing, sheep-tending “Ida-Homo.” The Perils of Petunia Pap Smear follows her life from the sheep-tending Boy Scout of her youth to the full-figured and brash queen she is today. Her adventures in the many Queer-Tanic trips, the Salt Lake Men's Choir, the Matrons of Mayhem, and Utah Prides and Lagoon Days have been canonized the past 15 years in a monthly column in QSaltLake Magazine, Utah's publication for the LGBTQ+ community. These tales and her words of wisdom were corralled into a 355-page book that will become the Quint to the Mormon Quad. See it at

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