Drag: Community and Identity - A Discussion - Part 1
Vieno: Who wants to start first with telling your experiences with doing drag and how it kind of was the gateway drug to realizing that you're trans?
Aamori: I was 19 when I get did drag the first time, and I think I did it at my University, and I also had a chance to do some shows over at the bottom exchange. I went to Trinity University, and it was my first time playing with gender so openly there and it was very freeing. It kind of helped me come out and tell people that I was most likely a woman, or at least something which was not a man. So it was like a transition from doing that.
Kitana: I kind of had a similar experience, I feel. Going to college and experiencing the bar scene kind of opened my eyes to the entertainment world of drag; and getting inspired by seeing these women on stage and people that were local and also seeing out-of-town entertainment that were famous within our LGBT world that kind of inspired me to say “you know what? if they can do it, I want to do this.” I've loved in the stage, this is something I want to do. It’s like being part of a secret society, I thought the time. and I'm like so way to be famous and do what has to be done. that was pretty much my first exposure to drag at the club, and then also whenever we did stuff with the university. we had our LGBT prom. that was the first experience too.
Christophe: extending on Kitana’s story; her and I went to college together and our first experience really into the world of drag was: I took her to a gay club for the first time. we just decided “hey we're bored let's let's go out and see what's going on at the club.” and we went and we both really appreciated one of the performers there. and later in the year we became really active in the LGBT clubs and stuff on campus. one of the cool things about the prom is they were going to host a drag show with students. kitsana did it, and I did it, and Vieno did it, and another friend of ours did as well. it was kind of interesting for all of us because we were all in that transitional period where we weren't really sure, we were kind of sure. but it allowed us to kind of role play in a safe environment so we felt like “okay well if this doesn't really work we're not committing to it.” that was the thought process but as that we all know that totally backfires.
Vieno: Yeah, “I can totally back out of this,” and then years later completely the opposite of backed out from it.
Christophe: It’s like “oh look, it was just practice for now!”
Vieno: I think my experience was pretty similar: starting off just going to the clubs dressed male, and then did the one drag performance with katana and Chris, and continued to go to the clubs dressed male.
Cristophe: I think one of the most interesting turning points is, past doing the performances is when kids on and I started to swap clothes. It’s more comfortable to be in each others clothes, and felt better, and we look better. like I remember one day we were getting ready to go to the club. We were like “You know what? for grins let's swap.” and she looked at me and I looked at her and I'm like “I hate you right now, you look better my stuff than I do.”
Kitana: I sure remember that. that's fun times. I think that's when we were finding ourselves playing with gender, and we all know trans movement wasn't even a glimmer in anybody's eye. It was just more like how we escaped from the normal world, and we go into our world and everybody is accepting. It was very validating. It was comforting too, because you have people there that were just there to enjoy the night, whether it be the show, or there'd be getting drunk, or just hanging out with friends. It felt like “oh my gosh finally we're all connected.”
Vieno: And being in that environment, where it kind of feels like, to an extent, nobody really gives a damn what you look like. I mean depending on which club you go to people give a lot of damns about what you look like, but that's more like whether or not you have some Louis Vuitton going on and less about whether or not you're wearing a dress. And a lot of it really is centric around having that safe area.
Aamori: Y’all talked about Community. It's definitely true that doing drag it actually help find community for me as well. It's now 10 years later, pretty much, and I'm still connected with people who I met at the club then. A lot of trans women who you would see, at lot of them are so friendly, and it feels good to let someone who's been out longer than you know that them being out inspired you to be able to do what you do for yourself. So it's so important to see other examples and also for the trans men too. There were some trans men who would compete in competitions like Mr Gay Texas, things like that. It was amazing to see, and some of them pulled away from competing once they transitioned and went on to live their lives. I'm now reconnecting back to doing drag again.
Christophe: I do agree with you, Aamori, about seeing some trans men competing in Mr. Gay Texas. Because prior to that the exposure to trans men was very very non-existent. As far as my friend group goes, like Kitana said when we were figuring things out, I was the only one. Now when I look back and see if there's other people that I can connect to the podcast and refer to Vieno, or whatever, it's about half and half now. And there's a lot more visibility. It's different than it was when we were first starting out, and I'm very grateful for the support we've had, and that we've been friends for so long, been close for so long. And even though it all came from kind of different situations but it was all connected through a relatively close-knit community.
Kitana: And I think a lot of people don't know that within this entertainment world it's hard to maintain your presence. I've heard other entertainers talked about yes, for some people it's a career choice, people who have been performing for years. I'm sure if Erica and Candy were still alive they would still be doing this to this day. But one Entertainer told me one time that this is not something that should last more than 10 years, and she's been entertaining for, what, 20 plus years now? 20-something years? She makes a valid point in saying that outside of our community a lot of people don't know that sometimes it is a struggle to really keep yourself visible. I think I just comes with any entertainment aspect. I think Joan Rivers even said at one point: you have to recreate yourself every few years. something has to happen you, have to keep changing, you have to update something, something has to happen. and of course from what we see in social media, you kind of have to keep with the times. If you're not understanding of social media, if you don't know what's going on, that's when I think you lose yourself from the entertainment world. It’s a struggle from time to time. ‘Cause you’ll get a booking, and then for some reason they'll be like “oh hey, had to cancel,” or something happened with the club, they're remodeling so the booking was canceled so you kind of have to think “OK, I was relying on that booking. now I have to get my s*** together. What else do I have to do. Let me call start calling people I know, anywhere else I can get booked.” So it is a struggle sometimes. It's a roll of the dice. I feel the bar scene here in Corpus is slowly dwindling, I think it has in the past, or those of us that do know. what needs to happen in order to maintain that stability? It's just hard sometimes to figure out what you need to do.
Vieno: I can't really comment on that cuz I never got to the “pro level” of doing drag. Never made any money off of that.
Christophe: Well, I mean, I didn’t either, but I did accompany Katana, and a lot of times we spent a lot of time out in the scene. And I knew enough people involved that I could see what was going on.
Kitana: And also, with performances, sometimes it is about a paycheck or a career. Other times, from personal experience, you help out your community as well. A lot of fundraising shows that happen, like bingos that occur, that sometimes the money will be donated. Two Sundays ago there was a Drag Brunch, the first Drag Brunch in Corpus, and I was helping backstage some of the entertainers, like Christy Waters is there, Sasha Star, Desiree Brooks, Britany Andrews. It went really well and I think there were tables for sale and what-not, and whatever money that was made that day they donated it to, I believe it was the Human Rights Campaign.