5 Things I Learned From Drag Queens

In the year that I’ve been a part of the Drag Coven, my life has become completely surrounded by drag culture. The emphasis on flashy outfits, sassy attitudes, and fake lashes isn’t too much of a stretch from the Lady Gaga fandom I was obsessively entrenched in before that. To be honest, neither of those are a far cry from the dance and musical theatre worlds I grew up in, either. The biggest difference is that now i have so many queens to make friends with.

Sure, when I was a kid a made friends with other dancers and musical theatre geeks. When I was part of Free Bitch TV I made friends with other little monsters. With drag, though, it’s a little different. The artists that you admire are a lot more accessible. There’s only one Lady Gaga and, while I’m lucky enough to have met her more times than most people will ever meet their idol, we certainly aren’t friends. When I was dancing, we admired certain prominent dancers from afar but with the exception of ballerina Evelyn Hart, I never met any of them. With drag, the artists are everywhere. They’re on the Internet, on the TV, at your favourite club, and jumping off the stage into the crowd. Regardless of their popularity, some of them are just as excited to meet you as you are to meet them. The relationship between the queens and their fans is more of a two way street than any of the previous communities I’d been involved in. I love making friends with drag queens.

It’s not that I purposely prefer queens over kings, bio queens, or androgynous performers. My draw towards queens is based on three very simple things: makeup, sparkle, and fabulousness. Other drag performers also use makeup, but queens take the cake in contouring and cutting a crease. Other drag performers use sparkle to wow their audience, but no one combines a sequin gown with a glitter lip quite like a queen. Other drag performers are fabulous, but something about the specific queen attitude magnetizes me.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a bio queen and meeting other bio queens makes me insanely happy. I think kings are amazing too (have you seen Landon Cider and Master Cameron Eric Leon?) …but the queens have a special place in my heart. This is because drag queens were the first people to ever tell me that what I’m doing is drag. It was a queen who snorted at me in a meet and greet and said “Bitch, you’re not a girl in a costume. That’s drag”. Drag queens taught me to stop discrediting myself a year ago, and they’ve been teaching me things ever since… whether I want them to or not! (Seriously, go talk to my drag mother Chiffon just for half an hour. I swear she’ll teach you, like, 12 random things).

Here are the top 5 things drag queens have taught me this year!

1. “If you’re not wearing nails, you’re not doing drag!”

Wait, what? Courtney referencing something by Alaska Thunderfuck? No way! Yeah, yeah, we all know she’s my favourite human so maybe I’m a little biased, but she’s smart as hell. I feel like maybe she backed herself into an aesthetic corner with this viral line, though. If anyone ever sees her without at least one nail on, I’m sure she’ll be read to filth. Personally, however, I see the line as a metaphor. To me, it’s not just an arbitrary rule about wearing nails (nor is it a rude, constricting attempt to tell people what’s drag and what isn’t, like some people are fond of saying. Don’t start with me on that nonsense. I’m right, you’re wrong. I’ll win, you’ll cry. End of story). To me, the line means that drag takes real effort and actual attention to detail. Your look, act, character, number, shtick, or whatever it is you do should be whole. You should be immersing every inch of yourself in your drag, paying attention to what you’re presenting right down to how your fingernails look (or your massive construction paper lashes, or the individual gems on your best pageant heels, or whatever your ‘thing’ is. Even if your ‘thing’ is not being put together and not being polished to every inch, do it with conviction). Drag is hard work. It means something. It should be well thought out. If you’re cutting corners (i.e. if you’re “not wearing nails”), you’re not doing drag!

2. There’s nothing wrong with faking it (or, couch cushions are a girl’s best friend)

I suck at padding. I have great pads (thanks Chiffon!) but I seem to manage a different height or placement every single time I wear them, so I don’t always do it. I’ve had queens show me how, send me links on proper placement, message me detailed instructions… hell, one queen yanked back the waistband of my tights and stuck her arm right in there to try and position them herself. I still usually end up looking lumpy and lopsided. Even so… I love my foam butt. My natural curves look like a set of two straight parallel lines. No butt, no boobs (I guess I have hips sometimes, depending on whether I’m eating real food that week or living on whatever junk food I can find in the Coven car). If I’d known drag queens in high school, though, I’d have figured padding out years ago! I’d have the curves of a marble statue. 17 year old me would have made herself a pair of butt pads and stuck them down her unintentionally saggy jeans to keep them up instead of pretending she was following a tom boy “trend” to explain why her underwear were always hanging out. I might not be good at padding, but when I do manage to make myself look like a curvy lady, I look goooooooooooood. One time, I padded myself so well that I was unabashedly strutting down the street in broad daylight in two wigs and no shoes, feeling my oats while families stared in confusion. My ex-boyfriend asked why I was strutting so hard and I told him it was because i felt so sexy with my new hips on. He said “I don’t get it. It’s not real. They’re not your hips. It’s looks great, but you’re just going to take them out. Why does it make you feel so good if it’s fake?” I thought about that for a moment. Was I going to be disappointed when I took my pads out and realized that I still had the body of a pre-teen boy underneath? Was I fooling myself into some weird false sense of security when I should have been forcing myself to embrace my real body instead? Hell no! Faking what I don’t have every once in a while gives me the best of both worlds. Couch cushions let me bounce my badonkadonk around for a few hours and then take them out and wear the same comfy boy short pyjamas I’ve had since I was 12 because my butt forgot to grow when the rest of me did. Fake eyelashes and contact lenses let me smoulder and seduce without paying for lash extensions that scrape the lenses of my nerdy glasses later on because I still can’t afford Lasik. Faking it lets me be a bombshell and appreciate my weird little body for what it is… I just get to pick and choose which one I feel like doing and when.

3. You can take yourself seriously without taking yourself seriously

Drag is ridiculous. I spend half my time walking around with lipstick applied all around my mouth like a clown and my real eyebrows school-glued to my face just so I can draw another (badly shaped) pair right above them. It doesn’t matter how silly the individual aspects of drag seem, though, because it’s so much fun when I put it all together. Of course someone is going to make fun of you when your eyelashes are so heavy that you look like you’re half asleep. Of course someone is going to rib you when you’ve got half your sofa shoved down your pants. You should be able to laugh at yourself when you’re walking down quiet, normative main street before sunset in stripper boots and a dress made of your living room curtains. If you take your drag too seriously, you’ll be so busy getting offended that you won’t have any fun. Not taking yourself seriously, however, is not  the same thing as not taking yourself seriously! (Are you lost yet?). If you commit to a show, take it seriously. If you want to be paid for your art, take it seriously. If you want to be respected for what you’re doing, take it seriously. …Just remember that we all know you’re wearing 86.3 pairs of panty hoes while you do it!

4. Drag is not consent!!!!!!

Okay, so I already knew the principles of this one before the queens got to me. I do have a feminist masters degree, after all. Nothing gets me quite as fired up with feminist pride, however, as watching my gender non-conforming friends stand the fuck up for themselves when douche canoes think they can touch a queen’s body just because the queen can’t feel her foam butt. Do not touch a drag queen without permission. Don’t touch her hair, don’t touch her clothes, don’t touch her body. If someone breaks that (common sensical, totally justified, should-already-be-done-out-of-respect) rule, you have the right to tell the offender to fuck off in whichever direction they prefer. Now, if the padded ladies can live by that rule, why shouldn’t other ladies? Let’s extend the concept: femaleness is not consent! It doesn’t matter whether the femaleness is innate, chosen, temporary, or occasional; it is never implicit consent for creepy hands. My mom taught me that idea. Female teachers taught me that idea. Gender theorists taught me that idea. It wasn’t until I saw how drag queens actually put that idea into action, however, that I really learned it, because they handle it better than anyone else I’ve witnessed. I won’t get violent with you, but I won’t sit back and take it. I won’t make a scene, but I won’t let you get away with it. I might even make it hilarious, but at your expense. My acid tongue will hurt you if you think you can touch a person without permission just because they’re presenting female.

5. You can literally be anything you want.

No seriously, anything. Sure, I’m a bio queen, but I spend half my time in drag recreating looks that were done by drag queens. I’m a girl who dresses like a guy who dresses like a girl who maybe decided she felt like a cupcake that day. I’ve dressed as a raver, a barbie doll, an alien, a super model, a paper cut out, a bride, various animals, and any other number of things that I’ve never actually been. Sure, I could wear those costumes without “doing drag”, but drag is more than just the outfit. It’s the confidence, attitude, and beliefs that go along with it. I’m not just a barbie doll; I’m a sparkly barbie doll who also happens to be witty, smart, hilarious, and thinks she’s, like, really good at dancing. Drag is like playing adult pretend, only you’re doing gender activism just by standing there looking like that (this is a whole other topic. We’ll get into this later. …Really into it. Like, into it a lot. I love gender. Run now). What adult doesn’t secretly want to spend their weekend transforming themselves into literally anything their mind can think of? The ones who say they don’t are liars.

I could go on forever. This list could be 834.2 items long, complete with figures and footnotes. Since I’m the opposite of concise, however, I’ll stop here for now and just say that I can’t believe how much my outlook about my own body and self has changed in the year that I’ve been doing drag. Thank you, queens!