it’s time for some herstory: now here’s the t

Hello kittens,

There’s something I’ve mentioned in passing a couple of times that I’ve come to realize really needed its own post.

Today I want to talk about the people who have a nasty, selfish, bigoted interest in preserving an artificial inviolate line between trans women and drag queens, even though clearly no such line exists.

It is transmisogynistic. It is a big ol’ mess of internalized misogyny. It is all around gross.

When you say, “drag queens do this and trans women do this,” you are making a whole slew of decisions for a whole slew of people, and it is none of your business.

It is disgusting the lengths that some people will go to to invisibilize the contributions trans women make to the drag world. There are many, many trans women who work as drag queens, and you erase them with your hate.

What it all comes to down to is the idea of the ideal trans woman: she who has had electrolysis and a series of surgeries so that she can ‘set it and forget it.’

Wait, I take it back. It goes further than that: what it really comes down to is the perverted notion of the ideal woman.

The ideal woman, so this worldview goes, should be able to roll out of bed and show her face as is to the world. She’s supposed to buy thousands of dollars worth of cosmetics but never use them, because then misogynists and women who have absorbed the misogynist worldview will call her a slut, a vamp, a temptress, a whore.

So then, the ideal trans woman is supposed to have her Adam’s apple shaved off and all the hair permanently removed from her face and she should never, ever try to enhance her appearance with makeup. Although here’s 15 hours worth of makeup videos we’re going to make you watch so that you can master techniques that we will call you a slut and a traitor for using.

[PS: if you’re over the age of 25, you have to know how to use cosmetics to cover up the fact that you’re aging without ever giving anyone the faintest hint that you’re aging and wearing cosmetics to conceal that fact.]

It’s not mysterious that these awful bigoted notions should arise. Cisgender women are constantly keeping each other in check, making sure they “don’t look like drag queens.” All you need to understand this tension is to walk down any makeup aisle in America: there’s all of this shimmery, dramatic makeup that you’re supposed to buy, but never use.

I’ve talked to my girlfriends about this. I hold up a shimmery purple eyeshadow and I say, “could I even pay you to wear this?” And even the women who wear makeup scream NO and laugh at the very prospect.

They make this makeup for somebody. And although I’m sure second-wave-style transphobes would have you believe otherwise, there are simply not enough drag queens in the world for companies like Maybelline and CoverGirl to benefit from making products just for us. Hell, maybe these cosmetics are designed to make and then fill a hole in your confidence.

But it’s gross that people should be penalized for actually wearing them.

I know the tide is turning, I know. The past few years have seen more femme acceptance than I’ve ever seen in my life. Although, 1) that’s not saying much, and 2) I’ve already enumerated some of the problems that entails.

The tide is turning, but darn it, it’s not fast enough.

The gross, bigoted ingrained notions that most people take for granted about this alleged hard line between performing in drag and transfemininity really came to a head for me during the Al and Chuck Drag Race Cruise debacle. After banning drag on this DRAG CRUISE, the involved parties assured everyone that this policy wouldn’t affect trans guests.

The obvious conclusion to be drawn was that this policy wouldn’t affect the ideal trans woman. There’s a notion lurking just barely under the surface (provided that you care to see it or can’t avoid seeing it because of who you are) that gender norms on this cruise will be strictly enforced. Don’t you dare do a smokey eye, you bad, bad trans woman, you: you’re a traitor, and you will be debarked from this boat at your expense! And don’t you DARE think about putting on that wig. There’s the plank, lady. We’ve decided you’re a drag queen now, ‘cos you didn’t live up to our rules.

While cisgender women are forgiven for the occasional flight of fancy – with a strong lip or a strong eye, NEVER both – trans women are not afforded the same leeway, even and especially if it’s their job.

When you whip up and/or reenforce this artificial line, you spit on the memory of pioneers like Marsha P. Johnson, a trans woman AND a drag queen who led the Stonewall Riots and fought equally to help the struggling street queens and trans women of NYC along with her sister in arms, Sylvia Rivera.

You spit on the likes of Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn, trans women artists working in the medium of drag.

You spit on the likes of Mx Justin Vivian Bond, a world-renowned and Tony-nominated drag queen and pioneer for people living beyond the binary. You spit on Candis Cayne, long famed as a drag queen before she became the first trans woman to play a trans woman in a prominent role on network TV.

You spit on my friends who are trans women and drag queens.

Cisgender and transgender drag queens don’t seem to find this hard to understand. So why is it so hard for everybody else?

Policing the gender expression of trans women is inextricably linked with the policing of the gender expression of cisgender women, and it plays out in the sick tension between the worldviews of advertisers and moralizers. Wear all the makeup, don’t wear any makeup – but make the choice for yourself, and don’t pretend that your choice is the same choice everyone else should make.

EVER LOVE,
Big Mama Schlomo

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even more of your drag questions answered!

Hello Kittens:

It’s that time again. It seems I’m quickly becoming the net’s leading authority on drag shows. Well, what can I say, there are a part of my weekly life, whether I’m in drag or just clapping for my fellow (giggle) queens.

You have lots and lots (and lots and lots) of question about drag, so let’s get right to it. And make sure to watch out in this edition for some of the completely random/horrifying drag questions that bring people to my website!

Pluck it, tuck it, werk.

1. why does a man become a drag queen

‘Cos it’s awesome. ‘Cos lady clothes are fun. Because performing is exhilarating.

Assuming you’re amenable to the idea of drag, you look at it one of two ways: 1) wow, that’s so great, but I could never do that, or 2) wow, that’s so great, and I want a piece of that. People who get into drag obviously fall into the latter category.

A lot of people, even a lot of gay people, assume there’s some sort of ‘pathology’ behind wanting to do drag. It’s really just another art form, one that uses gender expression as its medium, and paints in all the colors of the MAC rainbow. It is a fun thing to do that other people find entertaining. Win-win, end of story.

2. i’m fat and i wear a wig

me too!

3. how to attend a drag show

Step 1: find a drag show.
Step 2: go to it.

I don’t mean to be flip. It’s just to say that the only way to go to a drag show is to do it. If you’d like to be the best-informed audience member you can be, please read my handy-dandy guide, “So you’re going to your first drag show.”

4. how to have fun at a drag show

Step 1: go to a drag show
Step 2: have fun at it

Again, not to be flip, but you just have to do it. Trust me, if you go to a drag show and don’t have a good time, you’re probably either an asshole or immune to fun. Which is to say: the fun will happen, you just have to sit there and let it wash over you. Hoot, stomp, clap, tip, and please drink responsibly.

5. are drag shows for gay men

Drag shows are for the people who show up. Back in the day, there were lots and lots of drag shows at straight night clubs and supper clubs.

Like showgirls, but with full-coverage foundation.

Drag shows are not exclusively by or for any one group of people. There are for people who want to have fun playing in the sandbox of gender.

6. worried boyfriend may like drag queens

Unfortunately I don’t have more info about this person’s situation. It’s not often I think of relationship advice as gender specific, but I guess this would be one of those rare cases.

So I’m just going to assume whoever typed that is a concerned straight girl.

First off, what do you mean by like? Like, as in enjoys the spectacle of drag queens? Because that’s the whole point. There aren’t too many hard and fast rules about drag, and most of them were made to be broken, but a pretty solid rule is that drag queens should damn well be entertaining. If your boyfriend likes drag queens in the thinks we’re awesome kind of way, he’s like most other people with an open mind and a sense of humor.

Or you could mean the other kind of like. Maybe your boyfriend is attracted to drag queens, and maybe he’s not. He’s the only one who knows that, and it couldn’t hurt to ask him. But let me say this: I distinctly remember my grandfather ogling RuPaul in 1993. He thought she was a woman, even if she was a bit “leggy.” I myself from time to time find my head turning towards a pretty young female-identified drag king. Being turned on by a person who is presenting as a gender you’re attracted to, even if they aren’t actually that gender, isn’t weird.

And if your boyfriend is still attracted to you? Then you probably have nothing to worry about.

7. if someone is a drag queen do you ask them about their

Nope. Probably not.

I’m kind of sad this question got cut off, but the answer is probably no. Unless it’s about something really superficial, like clothes or makeup. Otherwise, it’s probably none of your damn business. Rule of thumb: ask yourself if you would ask that question of a stranger if they weren’t a drag queen. If you wouldn’t, you shouldn’t.

8. high heels fucking machine

Don’t wanna know.

9. sweet butt drag queen in prison

See #8.

10. can you make money as a drag queen?

Yes. Can you make enough money to pay your bills? Realistically, there are probably fewer drag queens than you think who don’t have some other job, too. If you like eating on a regular basis, I wouldn’t quit your day job until drag is actually your night job.

11. gay depilation

Is there a difference? WHY HAVEN’T I BEEN TOLD?

Yo, we all remove hair the same way. Drag queens just have more to remove.

  • exfoliate
  • wet the face with lots of hot water for 30 seconds
  • apply a good shaving cream (not something that comes out of an aerosol can!) and use a fresh razor
  • rinse the face with cold water and use a good aftershave product
  • moisturize

12. how to tape yourself like a fat drag queen

I’m going to hope you mean this.

13. how do u have a drag qween friend

Be nice to a drag queen. Strike up a conversation. Be cordial and interesting. But please don’t collect a drag queen as a friend just because she’s a drag queen.

(…and maybe learn how to spell queen. NO T, NO SHADE!)

14. what’s wrong with going to a drag show?

Absolutely nothing.

All right, kittens, that’s it for another round of your drag questions! I like doing this! And trust me, I have a backlog of questions to answer, so if I haven’t gotten to your question yet, stay tuned!

LOVE,
Big Mama Schlomo

all your drag questions answered!

Hello kittens!

I’ve noticed that many of you who end up at my website come here looking for answers to questions about drag and drag shows. A lot of your queeries are valid and interesting, while the rest normally involve porn I probably don’t want to know about.

So, I thought I’d answer the questions people ask time and again, along with a those that seem particularly compelling.

Ready? OK!

1. if you’re a drag queen does that mean your gay?
drag queens who aren’t gay
are all drag queens gay

Yes, all drag queens are ghey, and if you are a drag queen, you are ghey. JUST KIDDING!

God I hope no one stopped reading before I got to the “just kidding” part.

Being a drag queen does not in any material way reflect on either your sexual orientation or gender identity.

I’ve never done a survey, but my educated guess is that the vast majority of drag queens are gay cisgender men. But just because lots or even most are doesn’t mean they all are.

Really, anyone of any gender or sexual orientation can be a drag queen. All a drag queen is someone who turns the dial on femininity (whatever that means to that person) up to 11 and then starts looking for 12.

Why do you ask? Do you want to do drag and you’re worried that might mean you’re gay?

Well, maybe you are. Heck, I don’t know, and I can’t tell you that. But what I can say is that wanting to do drag doesn’t make you gay. Being gay makes you gay. And if you’re straight or bi or whatever and you want to do drag, honey, I say go for it. No one’s gonna ask for your sexuality credentials, and maybe being a straight drag queen can be your angle at your local club or bar.

Now, are you asking because someone you know wants to do drag? Maybe your heterosexy boyfriend? Again, I can’t tell you if your boyfriend is gay or bi or whatever. But you know what? You should probably take his word for it. If your relationship is awesome and the feelings are real, there is no reason for you to feel insecure about your boyfriend puttin’ on some glitter to make the childrens smile.

2. if you attend a drag queen show are you gay
is it ok for straight men to go to drag shows?
do guys go to drag queen shows

Nope, sorry, no straight guys allowed!

KIDDING! I hope you picked up on that.

Grrl child, I don’t know what drag shows would be without straight people. I can’t speak for every bar and club, but I would venture to say that the show at my local club relies on the attendance of straight people.

We love havin’ straight people around at the shows. We will make fun of you (in a fun and edifying way). We might even make you play “What Should the Straight Man Touch?”. And it’s all in good fun, the best fun.

Now, You best not be actin’ a fool. You DO NOT need to ham it up with your butch self if you come to a drag show. And you DO NOT need to “act gay,” ‘cos that shit is offensive and stupid. You in our house, honey, so just be yourself, drink your drink, and clap for the pretty queens, ya hear?

3. why do people go to drag shows
what do they do at drag shows?
what do you think of when you think of drag shows

Why do people go to drag shows? To laugh, clap and drink. Simple as that.

What do they do at drag shows? They turn up the dial on gender (femininity in the case of drag queens, masculinity in the case of drag kings) and they werk. it. OUT! In heterosexual English: people put on highly stylized and gendered clothing to make the childrens happy.

Most drag performance comes in the form of dancing while lip syncing, but really, drag is just the template, not the art form. There are drag comediennes and drag fire twirlers and drag singer-songwriters and drag erotic dancers and drag performance artists and probably a couple of drag astrophysicists. If you’re not sure what happens at your local drag club, the only way to find out is to get your ass down to a show!

What do I think of when I think of drag shows? The best night of my week.

4. how do drag queens make money
do you tip drag queens
how much to tip drag show

How do drag queens make money? Well, honey, most of us have day jobs. If you narrowed down drag queens to people who only make money by dressing up in drag, it’s a pretty small field.

For most of us, drag is an expensive and time-consuming hobby or side gig. Don’t get me wrong, we do it because we love it. But should you tip? To the best of your ability.

For much more on tipping at drag shows, please go here.

5. fishy drag queen definition
would i make a fishy drag queen

“Fishy” means that a drag queen is particularly womanly in appearance (and, often, manner). I would advise you to use fishy with caution. You never know when you might be telling a woman she looks womanly.

Would you make a fishy drag queen? Nobody can tell you that. You’re just going to have to try it out.

If you ask me, some people put way too much emphasis on being fishy. I don’t want to spend two hours putting on makeup for no one to notice I’m wearing makeup. I’m not gonna walk around in two-inch heels if I can saunter in 6-inch heels. I’m not going to wear a dress that says, “please don’t look at me.” I want my drag to say, “look at me! Do it now!”

6. work werk meaning drag culture
what does hunty mean in drag queen?
what’s a kiki?

It’s vocabulary time! Sharpen your pencils, class is in session.

Work/werk/werq/however the fuq you wanna spell it means “get it!”, “go!”, or, basically, “I appreciate that which you are doing and I encourage you heartily to do more of that!”

Hunty (honety, whatever) is part of an odd drag phenomenon in which a T is inserted after an N in the middle of a word. I know that’s a really oddly specific rule, but nobody ever said language was logical. Some more examples of this phenomenon include “Tinta Turnter” and “good mornting!” PS, I don’t know why, but I can’t hear somebody say Tinta Turnter without laughing like a banshee.

Kiki means gossip or gossip session. By extension, some queens (maybe especially in the south?) use it to mean “hanging out,” since (some) queens spend a lot of time hanging out and gossiping!

Kai kai is when two drag queens hook up. Not to be confused with kiki.

Please note that, just as it’s not necessary or appropriate to use the three words of Korean you know with the only Korean you know, it’s not really necessary to use drag terms with drag queens just to prove you know them. Jus’ sayin’.

7. can anyone be a drag queen?

You bet your sweet ass they can. Literally anyone.

You should not let anything stop you from being a drag queen.

You might think: I don’t have the right body shape. I’m not “pretty” enough. My beard grows too fast. I don’t have the “right” identity. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have the use of my legs and drag queens have to dance.

I want you to look all those thoughts right in the face and tell them to go away.

Anyone can be a drag queen.

You know what? Being different is an asset as a drag queen. No one wants to be a cookie-cutter drag queen.

I want you to take that thing or all those things you’re afraid mean you can’t be a drag queen and turn them into the things that will make you the best damn drag queen you can be.

And to help you, I’m going to set myself a cheap drag challenge: how to do a complete drag look with $40 or less (plus freebies for things you have around the house or can probably easily borrow). In fact, I’m looking forward to it!

Okay, kittens, thanks for reading. Check back for my drag on a budget challenge and to see more answers to your drag questions.

EVER LOVE,
Big Mama Schlomo

femmeberjack: futch, bemme, and this ol’ queen

Hello kittens,

Duality is the spice of life. Well, it’s the spice of my life.

There are a lot of dualities in my life. I’m this, but I’m also that.

But ya know one thing I’ve never really doubted, at least within the deepest, most honest part of myself? That I’m a femme.

I am a femme. Hi, I’m Schlomo, and I’m a femme.

[Hi Schlomo!]

Other people, however, have not been so quick to catch on.

Like, even when I tell them.

Lawdy.

In college, someone (very important and influential) told me I wasn’t really trans if I liked my facial hair.

To do their bid for king and cissexism, other people told me my trans identity just reenforced the gender binary.

[If talking to cis people were a drinking game, saying that transitioning was reenforcing the gender binary would be the point at which you give up and chug the whole damn bottle.]

And so I sat there, not doing anything. And I kept not doing anything. Except maybe growin’ that beard out.

That beard.

You’re not going to find this in any butch/femme anthology, and you’re not going to see any femme theorists hop to cop to this, but that beard is your one-way ticket to alienating yourself from the femme community.

What they will instead try to tell you – and, I believe to a great extent that they believe it, or at least want to believe it – is that femme is a feeling, an essence, a way of being, and that a femme is as much a femme naked, without any makeup, jewels or hair.

This is my bullshit card, and I am playing it.

Isn’t this a femmy bullshit card?

I have been told straight (ha!) to my face that I was not invited to femme things because “other people” might not perceive me as femme.

Well Jane Dandy for other people.

Ya know what? It’s true. You can’t see other people’s “feelings,” their “essences,” their “ways of being,” or even their vigantic goddess cores.

But if the relative degree of hair on my face disqualifies me from having a vigantic goddess core, then please stop lying about femme being a “feeling.”

My beard.

What can I say? I was raised by a butch-femme lesbian couple. Isn’t that handy?

There was something so interesting, so compelling to me about my butch mom’s transgressive masculinity. She was high butch, if such a thing exists. She routinely got sir’ed, wore only men’s clothing and men’s cologne, had a mighty mid-Michigan mullet and drove a Jeep. There was something wildly alluring about this genderfuck going on right before my eyes.

And I think the thing is that I knew, as a femme, that when I imitated her, it was almost like I was performing masculinity from that perspective. I adopted a lot of her mannerisms of dress and scent, but I identified more with being transgressively masculine, even when this got lost in the reading for other people.

And it spent a lot of the next fifteen years getting lost in the reading by other people.

In my anorexic depressed fucked-up teens, I did try to throw myself a lifeline by wearing big, brash jewelry. In-your-face, wild, obviously women’s jewelry, sometimes ten pieces at a time.

But the beard stuck around, which is something that I feel like I have to atone or account for.

Ok, first, I had spent all this time as a child fantasizing about the time when I could grow a beard, which I figured would be the moment I would turn into a real boy, and all these thoughts and feelings about being a girlyman would just go away. I ached to walk into class and say, “sorry, I didn’t have time to shave this morning!”

But the reality was that when my beard came in, it came in hard. It really didn’t take long to figure out that I could either have a beard or spend most of every day shaving. I mean, seriously, I develop shadow while I’m shaving.

So I think I took a page out of my butch mom’s handbook and said let nature take her course. This v-neck satin women’s tee and twelve pounds of second-hand gold jewelry will carry the message for me.

Nope. Really, not even kind of. And by the time I got to college, had some really serious beard growth and no longer felt like putting on a truckload of jewelry every morning when I had spent most of the previous night learning Russian verbs of motion, there weren’t any breadcrumbs left for other people to follow the trail to my vigantic goddess core.

I got shut down wicked hard. I didn’t move ahead with my transition, I let that beard roam wild, and I fucked a lot of guys who thought they were fucking some Jewish lumberjack.

I realized way too late on my mission to sleep with all the consenting adult males in Washtenaw County that I was tired of fucking misogynists. You can use fucking as a gerund or an intensifier in that sentence, but I’m looking more at its gerundive qualities.

I wasn’t the only one having this awakening. A lot of my friends who slept with men were looking at their love lives and saying, “do we really have to put up with this shit just because we fuck men?”

No. No we don’t.

Ain’t no misogynists gonna get my candy, ‘cos if you hate women, you hate me. All my fierce femmeness came bubbling back to the surface, and I decided I needed a more enlightened class of man in my life.

I was single and wrapped up in radical queer theory around the time I graduated from college (ok, technically I got dumped three days before I graduated from college ON THE SAME DAMN DAY BEA ARTHUR DIED!), and it gave me the perfect opportunity to sit around, brood, and cogitate on my genda.

In my experience, trying to figure out your gender is about crawling down all the little rabbit holes that call out to you. My first pair of Giorgio Brutinis. Realizing how desperately I needed that sparkly orange scarf back from a friend. Laying in bed at night thinking about nail polish. Actively thinking to myself: how can I make it so that other femmes can read me!?

When I was, oh, probably 23 I did myself a favor I should have done for myself years earlier: I got me a copy of Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook.

It’s funny, ya know, she interacts with the narratives she can see other people having in their own minds surrounding even reading or possessing this book. Does this make me trans? Will I become trans if I keep reading? What will other people think if they see me reading this book?

Over and over, Kate points out that you’re not the person you were five minutes ago – the implication being, at least from my point of view – why bother trying to be something you thought you were ten years ago, or something other people have always wanted you to be?

I got a little surprise when I took the “Gender Aptitude” test, the first big questionnaire in the book. I got a 33, which puts me very squarely in the “gender freak” category:

Whoa! This stuff must seem like kid’s play for you. Either that or water in the desert, huh? (Bornstein, p 17)

According to my score, Kate and I should already have been having a queer ol’ time together – and, queer as I was, I wasn’t sure how I could square not knowing what to do with all my gender biznass with the notion of already being a “gender freak.”

But what I ultimately got from the book is to say: fuck it. Who cares if no one else sees me as a femme? So what if my beard means I can’t go to your party? Your party is probably stupid and boring, anyway, especially if me and my vigantic goddess core aren’t invited. I’m a futch bemme queeny faggot, and you. can’t. touch this.

EAT IT!

Right? Awesome little year of self-actualization I had. (I eventually got down to a 26 on that gender aptitude test.)

Then I became a drag queen.

Who’da thunk it?

I was so gender-actualized when I started getting into drag that I ironically didn’t really realize what was going on at first. But there it was, or should have been, staring me right in the face: YOU’RE A FEMME NOW! Wanna come to our party?

I can’t say when it finally hit me, but I eventually realized that barrier was gone – I was beard-free and could be all the femme I wanted.

After all…I shave everything that shows or has tape on it (ouch!). My caboodle is overflowing, and I have my own vanity setup. I’ve got wig heads and hair spray, and tinted moisturizer and two different grades of exfoliating mask. My eyebrows come out of a NYX palette, and my heels go to the sky.

That ain’t hair honey, that’s makeup!

But now I’m in this weird place – do I even want femme acceptance anymore?

What does it mean to have an ironclad “defense” for my femme identity?

What does it mean to have exterior proof of an interior truth?

If they didn’t want my credentials then, why do I even want to give them my new ones? And why did I give other people so much power to decide what I was and was not?

I can’t tell you how much it would have meant if just one person had just seen me and believe me. Eventually I found those people. But it was only when I decided to stop asking permission to be who I am, whether I’m in combat boots or a sheer orange sequined top.

Oh, maybe it’s all a joke. And I’m big enough and old enough and strong enough and queer enough to laugh it off.

But maybe, just maybe we can make some room for other people’s vigantic goddess cores on down the line, huh?

Maybe so the little ones won’t have to go through the years of head-pounding and identity denial and questioning and fear. Maybe the little ones can say “Hi, I’m a femme!” and have other people take that at face value, whether or not that face is painted for filth.

Ever love,
Big Mama Schlomo

so how about your second drag show?

Hello kittens:

Many, many people who visit my website end up here because they’re looking for information about going to their first drag show. What can I say, I had a hunch that people wanted this information, and I guess I was right.

So…did you take my advice? Did you have fun? (I sure hope you had fun!) Do you have any questions about your experience? Do you plan on going back for another show?

Let me know in the comments or send an email to schlomosteel @ gmail dot com. I’d love to do a follow-up post about your experiences!

~Big Mama Schlomo