by Coco Jem Holiday.
I’ve been wanting to write about this for some time now. I’ve seen a lot of contention on the internet about AFAB Queens. I must admit, I started my journey with AFAB Queens on the other side of the tracks. I identify as bi-gender. I’ve always viewed drag as an outlet and a platform for gender artistry. When I first encountered my very first AFAB Queen I thought she was trans. I was uneducated. I talked to her about her process and asked her about her preferred pronouns in and out of drag (because they can be different). She explained to me that she was cis-gender and I got really confused. She barely wore any makeup, used her natural hair, and was wearing a costume that you could find in the kinky section of a costume shop. Basically, she was dressed like a gogo dancer and this was my first exposure to an AFAB Queen, and I didn’t get it.
I’m a decent dancer in my boy form. So, does that mean I could be a drag king? It would be a hella lot easier. My facial hair would be natural. It’d be a little less fun because I wouldn’t be transforming. It would be a crap ton faster to just wear my normal clothes and perform. My first thought was that if anyone can do drag, then it makes it less special. I like transforming. I landed on the side of fence of thinking that AFAB Queens really shouldn’t be performing alongside of drag queens. This really was my starting position.
As I started to gain more notoriety in my own drag, I was exposed to many different forms of drag and what drag meant. I interacted with bearded queens, to queens who shaved their face but not their body hair, to queens who didn’t tuck but wore leotards. I was exposed to queens who sang and queens who were using drag as a stepping-stone to transition. I met my fair share of trash queens that had ratted wigs and ripped fishnets. I met Drag Race queens and waited in line for hours to go to a meet-and-greet. I got to talk concepts with title holders, show producers and DJs. I worked with costume designers and many more.
Basically, I was exposed to a LOT more people and ideas.
So, I revisited the idea that ALL forms of drag are valid (regardless if they were good or not). Could a woman be a drag queen? Absolutely. Why? Because RuPaul was correct. Could a cis-male or trans male do drag? Absolutely. Not because I say so but because drag is a profession, it doesn't matter what your gender is underneath. We’re born naked and the rest is drag. It’s our performance to the world.
NOTE: I would have been a terrible drag king. After really understanding what being a drag king actually is, I wouldn't have been able to live up to some of the amazing kings I've met over the years.
Competitions. . .
Can cis-men enter a female beauty pageant. . .no. So why should cis-women be able to enter drag queen pageants? Honestly, I don’t have a clear answer. I know people think that beauty pageants are a different monster, but they’re not, especially if you’ve ever helped someone compete. There are strict rules in ANY competition and ANY leg up would seem unfair. I used to believe that someone with real breasts, or someone who had breasts would make me feel inferior. That was my own insecurity talking. With that, the only REAL advantage an AFAB queen has over a drag queen in a pageant is they have had the ability to be socially accepted wearing makeup since birth. That’s pretty much it. The rest is subjective. Not all cis-women have larger breasts, some still must wear inserts. Some must pad. Sure, women tend to have bigger hips, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to work hard to create the illusion of a drag queen. Yes, I said that correct, drag queens are different than women. If we understand that women and drag queens are different, it makes competitions easier to understand as well.
Drag Race. . .
It’s called RuPaul’s drag race. It’s her rules and her show. She’s also killed herself to further LGBTQi+ movements. She’s also a black man who did something successful and became the BEST AT that thing she was successful for. . .and I refuse to diminish that. As a black person myself, I will always admire that. However, RuPaul says some problematic shit quite frequently and should be called out for it. This does not mean you should take her show off the air and it does not mean you should treat any contestant differently because of it. Do I think that RuPaul should include AFAB Queens on the show? Yes, but in a season of JUST AFAB Queens (but coco that defeats the purpose). Hear me out. Cis-viewers will go on the SAME journey I just talked about. If you want AFAB Queens on the show as a permanent staple, then you need to expose members of the community to it in a way that they can’t possibly think it’s unfair. An apple to apples competition. Then maybe next have an all Trans* Queens season. It’s television, it’s not going to be what you want it to be and trying to diminish the accomplishments of Rupaul is not the way to go about it.
Two points to take note of:
All forms of drag are valid. My first exposure to an AFAB queen taught me that all forms of drag are valid, but they might not be that well executed. Even during writing this post I’ve learned so much about AFAB Queens and their contributions to drag. I honestly believe that most of us are afraid of AFAB Queens because they’re more socially accepted by society. Women are allowed to play with colors, hair and makeup. Men don’t get that luxury without a lot of discrimination. It’s okay to open the door for women to play in spaces that are open to everyone and you DON’T have to feel threatened. Be comfortable in your own drag. As I said before, the competition conversation is a little different, any body modification should be considered in the realm of fair-is-fair. Know that as entertainers, there is room to share the stage, there is room for each of us to boost each other up. The most successful person in the world shares it. Share yours. . . and be inclusive while doing it.
Becoming unburdened is really challenging when you see the destination but don’t know how to get there. With drag I’ve noticed the civil rights issues that plague are society run rampant within the drag community. It’s hard to believe that issues such a racism, colorism, sexism, homophobia even happen in the art form that’s considered taboo by its nature. So, I want to unburden myself. . .
I’ve been thinking a lot about how racism and drag co-mingle. For the most part, this isn’t between other drag queens, but it is about the fans and followers. The most famous drag queen in the world is a black man, and what we see from the negative aspects of drag is that it breeds racism. It’s terrible to be gay, but it’s worse to be black and gay. So often we try to reason with ourselves that since the queer community has had to face so much discrimination that there wouldn’t be room for racism. . .we were wrong. Watching Drag Race and reading Facebook comments you can easily see that there is a difference between people of color and white people. How can we as entertainers be equal if the fans treat us as though we could never be the same. There really is no racial slur for white people. . .however there are so many terrible words for people of color that any wrong move will result in a myriad of Facebook comments slaughtering this person.
If our journey is to really be a unified front of equality, especially in queer space we need to recognize the intersectionality of what we’re doing. We can provide a voice to those who are consistently silenced. If you’re really a fan of drag and don’t like an entertainer, move on. There is no need to cut someone down to make the performer you DO LIKE seem greater. No one is deemed great because the rest are bullied. Someone is deemed great for being great. Leave race out of it and let people be happy.
I thought I’d give an example of something I was asked about the other day.
Gosh, you and Addam seem so perfect, do you like ever fight?
Yeah, we do. However, that’s the kind of stuff that doesn’t really belong on the internet. It’s personal to you and your partner. Sharing your love with others is one thing, but you should never share hatred or toxicity online. That doesn’t breed anything except more negativity. If that’s your goal, more power to you. However, just to even out all my “lovey-dovey” stuff I thought I’d share a couple things I’ve learned about arguing with your partner by proving a few examples of how Addam and I handle arguments.
I want to preface this by saying that I’ve learned a lot about arguments from past relationships. There truly is a difference between domestic violence (DV) and disagreements. You’re allowed to disagree with your partner. It’s how you handle that disagreements that will decide the future course of your relationship. We’re all individuals with our own minds and we are not going to always agree on everything.
Yesterday, Addam had just gotten off work and I took a picture of him because he looked so handsome in his work clothes. I then laid on his stomach:
Addam: I’ve been thinking that I really want us to do something I enjoy for a change.
(Keep in mind, this has already started an argument in my head)
Me: We can do whatever you want you just never suggest anything.
Addam: Well someone asked me what I like to do and I didn’t have an answer. It was mostly stuff that revolves around your life.
Me: That’s because we’re in entertainment and we’re trying to make me famous. However that’s not all the stuff we do.
Addam: Well we go to movies and bars, but that’s mostly stuff you like to do, event though I enjoy doing it with you.
Me: What do you want to do, or like to do.
Addam: I like when we watch Netflix together, and it seems like we’re so busy that we don’t have time to do that.
Me: We do that pretty regularly.
Addam: Yeah, but not as much as we used to.
*Addam gets up and walks away, giving me a moment to think, it’s always good to hear what the other person has said and respond accordingly taking into count one another’s feelings and making sure not to “RIGHT” fight*
Me: You know, you do a lot of the things you like to do pretty much regularly. (The reason I know this is because I’m a third-party looking in). You play a lot of video games.
Addam: That’s true.
Me: You’ve also been configuring you new computer for the last few days.
Addam: Yeah, thank you for that by-the-way.
Me: You’ve also shown a real interest in sewing costumes.
Addam: You’re right, I really like doing that.
Me: You have plenty of things you like to do, they are just not couple things.
Addam: I guess that’s the problem.
Me: Would you want me to play video games with you more often.
Addam: But you didn’t like video games (a comment made to spark an argument).
Me: I like video games, I just don’t have time. When I’m playing video games I’m thinking about mixes, or cleaning house, or new costumes, or driving for Uber to make a little extra cash.
Addam: Yeah, I understand.
Me: We just need to start making sure we reserve time for us, that’s for us.
It’s very easy to forgive someone when both parties are being heard. My relationship isn’t perfect but it’s damn near close to it. I have a person who is invested in my dreams just as much as I’m invested in there’s and we are making shared goals along the way to meet one another. It’s a balance, NOT a compromise. A compromise implies loss. Balance implies complimentary behaviors.
Also, it’s very much okay to think about why you’re upset before acting like a crazy person. When the negative side of your relationship emerges it’s never good to be reactionary. Think about it. Understand why you’re upset. Process your emotions and proceed. Your feelings are valid as long as you take a moment to understand why you’re feelings them, and if they are irrational, express that.
Me: It pisses me off when straight men flirt with you to piss me off
Addam: That’s ridiculous
Me: It may be, but it makes me uncomfortable when you indulge in their behavior, especially since some of them are just closeted and will probably never come out, so they use you to get their “fix”
Addam: I understand, I should be more respectful of our relationship and your feelings
Me: and I’ll try to be a little less jealous.
I don’t know if this will help anyone out there, but I thought I’d share that being part of this love story has ups and downs, but it’s all insanely worth it.
Illegal immigration is a man made construct. As a whole, human-beings are not illegal. I think we mostly get that.
What we are not getting, which I’ve been struggling to try and phrase, is the concrete and often forced conversation that we as Americans believe in protecting all children except for those whose parents are undocumented.
1. We are being ripped apart as a country because we are trying to force women to have babies they don’t want. Then, when these babies exist we complain that our taxes have to take care of them.
2. We as a country disgustingly state that, “if they didn’t break the law” as a little power move to justify so much darkness in the laws in our country. The undeniable truth, if you use this phrase in modern day, you’re kind of a monster. How do you justify babies in cages with that phrase? If you feel righteous for making that stance, you are kinda the worse kind of person. . . Heartless.
3. If we are forcing women to have babies, then why aren’t more people foster parents? Didn’t we all just hear Mesa County needs 47 more foster families? Oh? That’s right because unwanted babies can’t be fostered by the families who didn’t want or can afford them in the first place.
4. So, we need more foster families. However, gay couples still have to go above and beyond to make it happen versus their straight counterparts.
So, do we believe in families or don’t we? It sounds like we don’t know what we’re actually okay with because we believe in barriers that keep families separated. Pro-life ends at birth because lord knows there’s a lot of black babies who could use a home.
As a man, my opinion about abortion is irrelevant. I’m very comfortable saying that. So what I’m asking folks to recognize is this:
Does you belief in family dynamics include all families and if children are unwanted, what are you doing to remedy that?
I think the common misconception about me is that I “fit in”. Being social doesn’t mean you fit in anywhere. I don’t know how to best explain this but fitting in is the least of my worries. However, I’ve always wanted to be a part of a gay tribe. Gay Tribes (mostly used on Grindr) could include: Bear, Clean-Cut, Daddy, Discreet, Geek, Jock, Leather, Otter, Poz, Rugged, Trans, and Twink. I thought those were pretty cool, but I never fit in there either. I’m a drag queen, and that’s my tribe.
I was going through Instagram and seeing handsome burly men (known as bears) who are being body positive and living their truth. Me on the other hand, I guess I’ve always seen myself as a bear even though others never really saw me as that. I never had a problem dating bigger men, but bigger men had a problem dating me. I remember thinking that this couldn’t be the way it works. If I did have someone be interested in me, it was like it was because they had some sort of fetish toward black men. Ultimately it left me feeling very alone and isolated. Never in a million years did I think i'd find love or happiness that stemmed from love. I'm a believer in that you shouldn't find someone who completes you. That's to much work for another person to fix you. You should find someone who helps you and brightens your already complete circle. Being in love is like hearing your favorite song again for the first time. When you find someone who takes the times to hear your song it can honestly mean everything.
Today I’ve found a partner who accepts all of me. It’s the best feeling to know I matter to another individual who doesn’t just seem my size, race or flaws. I think we all just want to fit in. . . I just happened to fit in with the man that loves and a gaggle of gays who play dress up.
As an entertainer from a much smaller metropolitan area than most, it is super easy to get discouraged with the craft and to lose passion. I have to admit that in recent months I contemplated giving up drag all together.
Between feeling it hindered my ability to date and also feeling like no matter how hard I worked at it I’d just been seen as that amateur local queen that I was four years ago when I started, I thought maybe it was time to hang up the wigs and move on to a dragless chapter of my life.
But then something happened. I began to focus on the positives more, and I started accepting the praise that I was getting rather than focusing on negativity. I also quit making drag just a feel good party, it became a job for me and I started taking it seriously. I really do think it’s shown in my looks, and with the help of my closest friends I’ve been able to make the artistic concepts in my head become a reality.
So with that, I really want to thank all of you who have supported me and believed in me over the years. Your positive words mean so much to me and they inspire me to be the best queen I can be.
My friend, Natalie Symone, posted a video about code switching so I thought I’d talk about that. Code switching the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation.
This is VERY true for gay culture. This is especially true for drag queen culture. There isn’t even a time when we hear male pronouns if you have to many queens together. The worlds are flamboyant and jovial. It’s a celebration of the things society tries to tell us are lesser. . .like women. We all know we are powerful, kind and strong, but in gay circles, they are idolized.
I had an incident a few months ago where I was code switching at a work function. Since I perform in drag, people tend to know only a certain side of me. Coco and Jon are practically the same but different in presentation. I don’t mind being the center of attention, however, when you happen to catch a friend outside your circle it can be a little traumatizing for your brain. My co-worker even asked me if I had dated that person because of how friendly we acted. We hadn’t, but it’s just a different kind of attitude all around.
Trust and believe.
People say that the country came together when we landed on the moon. People also say that we came together as a nation after 9/11. There's a oneness that happens with things in a society are so rough that you have no choice but to be kind to your fellow man.
When the Pulse shooting happened, it was one of the most devastating events to ever reach the gay community. Even though marriage equality has finally become a reality and certain communities were seen as more accepting, we had a terrible event that changed everything. Though, when you think about it, black-lives-matter is another group in its infancy because of the mistakes of selected individuals.
So, why didn't the nation come together after Pulse?
Because WE changed.
We changed in a way that would come to haunt us. Social media gave us the ability to know about this tragedy, just as much as it provided us the distractions to move forward. We had a presidential election on the horizon and we were more concerned about locker room talk then the lives of our fellow Americans. We wanted to believe in the excuse that it was all about Isis. We also wanted to believe that our straight friends who chose to ignore this horrible event by sharing a meme involving a cat instead of the horrific events that cut us so deeply was their way of wanting to respectfully move forward. In reality, it was there way of telling us that our tragedy, was not THEIR tragedy.
We need to do better in a way that allows us to mourn on a global level while making a promise to do right by each other no matter what it takes. It's very hard to check our own privileges and recognize that ever second of every day there are people who would die for a drop of the privilege we may blindly carry. Our neighbors all have different struggles and we need to understand that. Pulse may have been the most devastating thing to happen to the gay community in many years. Lets at least try to learn from it. Lets try to not forget it.
How about we stop trying to move forward, and actually take more then a day to remember.
The CD'S Drag Queen writers include: Coco Jem Holiday and Donatella Mysecrets.