Finding Liberation Through Drag: Strap On Your Heels, We Have Work To Do

Baseball cap? Check. Playboy chains? Check. Condoms in your pocket? Check. Doing drag as a frat boy persona on a late Saturday night was demanding, but my newfound community and validation from complete strangers was worth the effort.


A few years earlier, I watched the first episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race for my freshman year odyssey class. With nothing else to do, I passively watched hyperfeminine queens drop it down in elaborate outfits and high heels that looked like medieval torture devices. At that moment, I did not feel like drag was something that was meant for me. As a masculine-presenting lesbian, I did not see myself putting on a dress anytime soon, so I felt like drag was not my place despite being in the LGBTQIA+ community. My assumption closed me off from a vital part of my community with a rich history of activism and queer joy.


It wasn’t until I saw Chey Boy on TikTok last year that I realized everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community could and should be welcome in drag communities. Chey Boy, a drag king in Iowa City, did a dance routine to Pony dressed as a janitor. If Chey could look smokin’ hot as a custodian, then I could definitely look good in drag. With the inspiration from Chey Boy, I started reaching out to my friends who have been to local drag shows and brainstorming different personas,

outfits, and routines. I put on a playlist of potential songs and did interpretive dances in my kitchen. I browsed my local thrift shops for different props and clothing items. I’ve seen that even though drag is seen as only for certain queer people, you can break these misconceptions in your own communities. The passion, confidence, and joy from drag have already impacted me in ways that I could only imagine a few years ago – and it all started from one TikTok.


Last week, to continue my interest in drag, I reached out to a local drag queen called Kellie Devine on Instagram and asked if I could be in the Athens Showgirl Cabaret’s open drag night. Kellie Devine graciously welcomed me and told me to go pick out a song . Although I spent long hours searching for the right song for

my routine, I Just Had Sex by The Lonely Island, I was able to build a rough outline of how to keep the audience engaged. From the items and clothes that I already had lying around, I found a silver chain with a playboy pendant, a plain white shirt, white and blue striped shorts, and white high-top

sneakers to look like your typical Chad from Pi Kappa Alpha. I also found some old female condoms that I got from the University Health Center and planned to throw them at the audience at the end of the song.


On the night of the show, I was so excited to make new drag friends and see everyone perform. My heart dropped to my stomach once it was my turn to perform. Everyone was very supportive and kept reassuring me that I would crush it. Once my song started playing, my nerves calmed down and I just

enjoyed the moment. I flirted with the audience, danced with somebody’s dad, and nailed someone in the front row with a female condom. It was liberating, and I met so many people that I can see being part of my chosen family.


Through the successes of my drag, I also realized that drag communities still uphold many systems of oppression. Ru Paul, while an impactful queer celebrity, has kept trans women from being on the show since they had an “unfair advantage.” This transmisogyny was used to justify the exclusion of trans women from drag when trans women of color, in particular, sacrificed their time, energy, and sometimes their lives for queer rights. Drag communities are also mostly hyperfeminine queens, which leaves little room for drag kings and gender-diverse drag royalty. This is not to say that all drag communities are like this. The drag community that I am involved with is very supportive of my androgynous form of drag and welcome young, new drag royalty. However, I have seen many trends in the mainstream media where the conversations around drag center white, able-bodied, upper-class, skinny, hyperfeminine queens. These narratives uphold racism, ableism, classism, and heterosexism in drag communities, and drag communities need to de-center these hyperfeminine queens and prioritize their Black, disabled, low-income, fat, androgynous kings and royalty.


How do we restructure drag communities to be more intersectional? We must begin by finding and supporting our local Black, disabled, low-income, fat, androgynous kings and royalty. Fighting systemic issues starts in our own neighborhoods, so hand your singles to our unheard and underrepresented drag members. If you do not have the time, energy, money, or access to local drag shows, you can always follow them on social media and share their content with your friends. Media attention for drag royalty is far and few in between, so boosting their platforms will be invaluable. If you have extra time, reach out to local drag royalty and ask them what kind of support they need. Do they need new outfits? Do they need help with networking? Do they need a babysitter to make it to their next show? Do you have certain skills that would help them, such as search engine optimization, product design, or fashion design? Sharing our knowledge will empower ourselves and our drag royalty. Queer people must support other queer people, especially when we live in a world that does not value queer lives.


Queer liberation is triumphing over oppression together – willing yourself and your communities over anything designed to stop you from experiencing queer joy and queer success. What intrigues me about drag is not just the clothes or the money, but the community you can build. It is through drag that I can ask for feedback on a new routine and help a new drag friend pass their math class using my experience as an online calculus tutor. Drag is queer liberation – instead of keeping ourselves in boxes, I work to break societal norms, exaggerate the flaws of those in the dominant culture, and support my community in any way that I can. Whether the challenge is audience engagement or solving for x, my community and I will be solving these problems and will always persist. Community-building will let us live happy, fulfilling, and fabulous lives, and we can use this to strive for a world that works for all drag royalty.


143 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All