It is my deepest honor to have an award in my name with Werrrk.com’s Drag awards, THE WENDY HO AWARD: created to recognize my career as a female/ AFAB (assigned female at birth) in Drag–and to recognize my up and coming female/ AFAB sisters that choose to participate in the exciting world of drag!
Long post ahead, sweeties! This post is motivated by the award voting, my 10 year anniversary of going PRO (today!), as well as my perceived lack of support around Women’s Reproductive rights that I’ve been witnessing in some of my closest colleagues in the drag arena.
I feel that there are many misconceptions about being a female/ afab drag queen. The one that seems the most prevalent is that we as afab/female drag queens have it easier in performing over the top femininity–as we are born with the parts that are associated with being female, but as in any male dominated field, having a vag doesn’t guarantee us clemency.
I wasn’t born wearing gobs of make up, wigs, undergarmentry made to accent the positive– nor was I born with the most important piece of the puzzle: the confidence to express my strong feminine — with a strong under current of what is deemed to be masculine —nature because I CHOOSE to express myself AT ALL. That confidence has been hard earned, and some of it is still just out of my reach. We live in a world where the powerful expression of femininity is neither encouraged nor nurtured. That world is changing due to the #metoo & #timesup movements as well as the ultimate Drag competition reality TV Show– Rupaul’s Drag Race which does encourage such expression–but you are only allowed to participate in said competition–if you are a man.
I’ve witnessed a change in the conversation at large that has also drawn my attention to what’s not changing. Most AFAB/female drag queens are still heavily regarded as thieves and cultural appropriators in many queer spaces. While we must pay respect to what the spaces are/were there for in the first place, it’s an interesting dichotomy–here we are women amongst men that choose to express femininity through their scopes–and WE are the ones that are appropriating? Not to mention the strong backlash on bachelorette parties and straight women overtaking the audiences in these spaces. I do understand that some of these women don’t know how to ACT in these spaces– nor do they know how to act right anywhere they are heavily intoxicated. There is oftentimes an entitlement that I have witnessed in these groups of women that is annoying and can not be denied. I too have walked away ashamed to be a woman when groups like these roll through. Having said all that–we (the performers) also have to know that we are lucky to have an audience at all considering that with the advent of Grindr, Scruff, & –whowantstosuckmydickin5minutes.com–it’s rare that I see an audience that isn’t 75% female and straight to boot! Sometimes I truly miss performing primarily for gay men, as it was in the beginning of my career, but again, I count myself as one of the lucky ones to even have an audience at all.
I have often said that as long as any performance artist is coming to the table looking to ADD to the experience vs. TAKE from the experience (because that happens too) they should be welcomed regardless of what genitalia they were born with. Are you GIVING ENTERTAINTMENT OR NAH??? ARE YOU REVELING IN THE SPACE OF YOU THAT ISN’T SCARED, ISN’T QUIET, AND IS WITHOUT APOLOGY! THEN…GO ON GURL G’HEAD GET DOWN.
Now I love me some MamaRu, but I do think that part of loving someone is calling their attention to where they may have missed the mark. RuPaul is quoted as saying “Drag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it’s not men doing it,” and for a while, I could see how that might be true, but now I think that’s a sad summation by the most powerful man in the drag world. He also welcomed all of us afab/females to compete in the Miss Universe contest, and to me that was saying in essence–if you are not considered a model beauty then you have no place in the arena whatsoever. That would be like making the requirement to compete in Drag Race that all contestants have subaverage BMI and are in possession of a beauty standard set through the male gaze. Wouldn’t that requirement dismiss most if not all of our all time FAVORITE QUEENS? Would that requirement level the playing field or level the field completely? I would have rather he said something to the effect of “all of our contestants are judged on our criteria of….., ” but if the criteria is Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent–an acronym for PUSSY in itself…well for a person who is known for saying to straight women: Gay people are not your accessories, who are the accessories now? I’m waving Hieeeeeee to all the straight, female judges that have never worked in the field of drag but are permitted to judge based on their fame quotient.
It IS dangerous and ironic for any woman to deem themselves capable of pulling up a seat at the table because to be female in itself is dangerous and ironic. We are the ones that are capable and powerful enough to bring forth life–and most of the inspiration for drag in itself, yet most of the time we are deemed as what my fellow queen @puzziniggrr said best in a recent instagram post “inconveniently lacking of what makes us enough of a person for you to view our humanity equally with your own.”
I have been propelled by the drag community, and I have also seen drag queens make more money lip syncing my songs–than I will ever make singing them live, because some men as well as women in the audience dismiss me immediately when they find out….gasp….she has a vagina–and oh my lawd…. it wants to say stuff. If I’m lucky it can start off with uncomfortable and usually go to a “yes, honey!” But most of the time it starts off with an “I DON’T KNOWWWWWW!” And…that is completely okay and valid given the setting that we’re in, and I’m so used to it now I have no choice but to acknowledge it and use it! However, having to work for that love after I open my mouth as opposed to a man coming to the stage and getting instant glorification, based on his level of FISH is a grind. A grind that has made me stronger, a grind that has made me PROUD–but nonetheless one that will probably continue until the day I retire and beyond that–until the day that I die.
I started out as a stand up comic, and I chose the drag world because I was sick of being harassed and deemed lesser than as a female by the boy’s club of stand up that was so prevalent when I began back in 2006.
I also chose the drag world, because they in turn chose me. I am FOREVER grateful for that. Y’all don’t even KNOW the expanse in my heart that has been created due to this tribe. However, sometimes what I THOUGHT would be a celebration of female expression–as at the time that I started I wasn’t even aware of Drag Kings existing–WHICH HAS BEEN MINDBLOWING (hiiiieeee @landoncider !!!!)— but what I thought would be a celebration of fabulosity regardless of sex is often times a moment to moment TRUDGE to deal with the way that some of you JUDGE.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not the oppression olympics–anyone that isn’t born into the white, straight, male, heteronormative orientation–is indeed OPPRESSED–and we’d all do well to witness and honor that in one another as a collective vs. infighting and dismissing one another. Anyone remember #strongertogether ??? It turned out to be the losing slogan in a presidential campaign run by a woman against the most repulsive misogynist piece of shit, who happens to be an ex-employer of mine (another story for another time) –who WON. That’s right–the competition was what we deemed to be NIL–and we LOST, and if you consider yourself as apart of this collective, we are STILL losing. Abortion and Female Reproductive Rights are literally DISAPPEARING, and the silence that I’ve witnessed from some of my closest friends in the drag world–is DEAFENING.
But I digress…..
In most local drag scenes–and honey I’ve seen more than a FEW road dogging it most of my life— there is a strong presence and history of trans, cis women, queer women, people of color, queens, kings, and non-binary individuals and it is up to us to make sure that the artform remains an inclusive one. I have no desire to compete on a show wherein drag is now defined as performance artists that excell primarily in: make up artistry, lip syncing, fashion design, and professional dancing/ death dropping. I possess none of those talents and I know I would LOSE based on those criteria. I often wonder if Mama Ru herself would win her own competition. What I am is a woman with a voice and a perspective that has been welcomed to the table of many drag communities BECAUSE of my differences, and that to me is what ultimately unites us as a whole. We are OTHER, but we are indeed one–but only if we are aware enough to WANT IT.
So thank you werrrk.com for spotlighting artists of every sex, color, creed and niche in drag! How bout Shantay, We All Stay??? Now go find a woman that works in the field of drag and hug her today, thank her for her contribution AND in the name of all the yes gawds have her back on these rights that we are being stripped of. Cut the track–don’t lipsync it, honey, use your voice and SAY SOMETHING.
Who will be WERRRK.com’s 2018 WENDY HO AWARD winner is up to you!
You can vote once every 24 hours for your favorite queen and in all our categories from now through May 20th! Congratulations to all the nominees and best of luck!