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. . .
Two points to take note of:
- Gay boys get beat up for being sissies. They also get beat up for wanting to be drag queens.
- Violence against women (especially trans-women) is real. Cis-women are inherently treated lesser by the majority of society and in most circumstances (even drag) they are othered.
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.