Helen Being — aka Queen Galaxia Cosmos — dreamed of being crowned the Eugene SLUG queen ever since they were eight years old.
Being first saw a SLUG queen (Society of the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropod) during the Eugene Celebration Parade they attended as a kid. Being doesn’t remember who was crowned SLUG queen that year, but was touched that the city would rally behind someone who was so different and silly.
“I remember feeling like that is something I could do. I was fat as a kid and weird,” Being says. “I just felt ‘othered,’ and then I realized that creativity and charm and silliness were things the entire city of Eugene valued.”
Twenty-eight years later, Being’s dreams came true when they were crowned queen at the 2021 SLUG Queen Coronation, the first one held in-person after going virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual summer competition, known for its silly approach to pageantry where locals compete to become the new “raining” queen, was held on Aug. 13.
Several hundred people gathered at the Park Blocks for the event, and most wore masks. A live band accompanied the transitions as each of the six wanna-be queens took to the stage in an attempt to woo the judges and impress the crowd.
When Being took the stage, they appeared as a slug from outer space — specifically a slug from the planet Gastropoda in the Mollusca Nebula.
The costume had about 800 pieces, Being says. The two main pieces were an aquamarine spandex suit they had specially designed, and a flying saucer disc worn as a skirt. Its core is made from three large hula hoops attached to two smaller ones. Orange flowers and flames came out of the bottom of the skirt. From there Being used a mix of cardboard, zip ties and an abundance of glue.
“I love retro futurism. That’s an aesthetic. I’ve always been into science fiction,” says Being, who sports aquamarine hair matching the costume.
In their free time, Being is involved with Eugene Trek Theater, a community theater group that performs Star Trek episodes and other science fiction stories in parks and other local venues. Being, who is also known as Helen Shepherd, also owns Spectrum, Eugene’s LGBTQ+ bar.
Being first announced their intention to run for SLUG queen back in October 2019. But the pandemic put those plans on hold. Being competed in the virtual 2020 competition, but Old Queen Jenette Kime was again crowned because the pandemic had shortened her rain.
But Being wasn’t giving up. They spent the months leading up to this year’s events meeting and bribing old queens, a tradition of the SLUG queen competition.
“I loved making the bribes,” Being says. “It gave me something to focus on during the pandemic.” Being adds they made little purses in the shape of slugs, face masks and stoles featuring slugs.
Being says winning the contest means a lot to them. Being identifies as genderqueer and says they are hormonally intersex.
“I struggled with accepting myself for a long time and more recently, I let my beard grow,” Being says, adding later, “It took me a couple of years to really grow to the point where I love my beard. Now I think it makes me more attractive.”
For the talent portion of the contest, Being spent three minutes talking through different feelings felt in the last year. Their speech addressed the sad reality of the world we live in, but also added a bit of humor.
“We are all here tonight despite our fear and sadness because we believe in the healing power of silliness,” Being said. “We know if we are brave, vulnerable and compassionate, we can do anything together. So let’s be silly and repeat after me: ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’”
And the crowd repeated the “ha has,” laughing at the fear and sadness.
Overall, Being says they wanted to embrace a persona of not being scared of feelings. After the talent portion and answering a question from an old queen, Being was crowned the winner. They say they were shocked to win.
“It feels really nice. To know that I guess that my love for Eugene is not unrequited. I’ve had enough unrequited love affairs in my life. I don’t need any more,” Being says. “I want to pour my heart and soul into loving Eugene. And Eugene stepped up and said, ‘Yeah, we love you, too.’”
Now queen, Being says they look forward to organizing events and appearing at in-person ones, which they know is dependent on COVID-19. It is also common for SLUG queens to represent or advocate for a specific cause or organization. Being says they don’t have one specific one yet, but is already speaking on issues of gender queerness and being intersex.
“So it’s still early to know exactly what my legacy will be or how I’ll be able to use this platform. But I am having conversations, you know, mostly so far about art, about ways that I can bring art and hospitality to Eugene,” Being says.
If you donate $20 to TransPonder, Community Veterinary Center or Trek Theater, Helen Being will send you a silly or inspirational video. Contact Helen Being at OuterSpaceSlug@gmail.com.