Vancouver
2 min

Long live the queens

Drag queens are the epitome of unfettered self-confidence

Janis Abitch. Vera Loathing. Devlynn Payless. Every now and then, when the desire for deep introspection comes over me, I take a moment to consider what my drag name would be.

What sort of queen would I be? Would I be a refined glamourpuss drawing influence from Rita Hayworth and Grace Kelly?  Or would I make myself a raunchy and ribald spectacle, the likes of which would make Divine look like a sweet, Mormon girl?

As a self-described hermit, I see drag queens on the other side of my social spectrum. The glittery yin to my grimy yang, personalities such as Joan-E and Justine Tyme occupy a completely different space than myself. Drag queens are the epitome of unfettered self-confidence.

My very first drag show was back in ’95. I was a university freshman living in Montreal. The second floor of the club Sky housed a dance floor and stage dedicated to all things campy and outrageous. Mado or Nana would draw in a crowd of attentive gay men and dazzle them with their hysterics. Unable to speak or understand more than 10 words in French, I found a way to enjoy it anyway.

Someday I’ll find out what these ladies are getting themselves up to these days. In the meantime, the Odyssey’s Boa Show remains the best way to cap off a weekend and I am convinced you just haven’t lived until you have seen Carlotta Gurl and Robyn Graves summon the rock goddess fabulousness of Heart.

Throughout my many and varied misadventures in gaydom, I have always been able to rely on a drag queen to lift my spirits. If I were in a club, feeling down and unappealing, a queen would always come to my side. She would cheer me up with a kind word, a much needed compliment and a good laugh.

Back in my early 20s in Montreal, Georgette ruled the shooter bar at Sky. Perhaps a little rough around the edges, she nonetheless knew how to cure whatever ailed me. Of course, several shots of sambuca also helped the medicine go down.

So I find myself growing a little agitated when I read articles questioning what relevance drag queens have in 21st century gay culture.

Thomas Rogers of Salon.com writes in “Where Have All the Drag Queens Gone?” that queens have little to do with his own gay experience. He says drag shows have no appeal to anyone under 30 and that the whole spectacle has lost its ability to shock.

Since finding mainstream success with the chart-topping antics of RuPaul in the early ’90s, drag culture (and by extension gay culture) has been on the decline, he argues.

Perhaps there is some truth to this. However, I think we are simply witnessing the evolution of drag queendom. They have become a valuable component to not only our culture, but also to the struggle for equality. Ever since leading the charge during the Stonewall riots, drag queens have emerged as spokesqueens, fundraising organizers and emcees and community leaders. They do this while maintaining a grueling beauty regime.

I suppose the greatest influence drag queens have had on me is an inspiration to live loud and proud, take no prisoners and, above all else, have some fun.

Hence my search for a brilliant drag queen name. Polly Gimme? Little Orphus Annie? Donna Tiara?