By Kevin Seaman (aka LOL McFiercen)
Picture this: You’re out at the bar and you see that one guy you like. The one you’ve been chatting with on Scruff or Grindr or Adam4Adam or whatever. And you don’t know how it’s possible but he’s actually cuter than his profile pics.
So you check your breath and muster up your best smile. But before you go up to talk to him you remember….Oh right, I’m in drag!
So, what do you do?
Tell him you’ve been chatting online, show him how at ease you are with your gender fluidity and ask him to buy you a drink.
Make a big splash as the fabulous drag queen you are and then tell him later in chat that you’re that queen.
RUN THE OTHER WAY, PRAY THAT HE DIDN’T RECOGNIZE YOU AND NEVER BRING IT UP AGAIN!
I’m ashamed to say that my first instinct and the one I usually end up choosing is C.
For me, there’s this disconnect between my sexuality and my drag. Even though I’ve been doing drag for 6 years, I’ll usually try to “de-drag” my house before a trick comes over—stashing wigs in the closet, hiding lashes in the medicine cabinet and scrubbing the polish off my nails. I mean, the signs are still everywhere, but dimming the lights helps a lot.
I’ve just learned that most of the guys I’m attracted to aren’t super into it. I mean they usually like drag queens, but they don’t want to fuck them.
At least that’s what it says on their hookup app profiles. You know what I mean, things like:
Drag is celebrated internationally as a traditional gay art form, yet why are these gay men so afraid of any hint of femininity when it comes to sex?
And then I remember that before I did drag I liked drag queens, but I didn’t want to fuck them.
In my 20s, I watched a few different friends begin their careers as queens and—even though I was front row cheering them on—in the back of my head I couldn’t help but think that becoming a drag queen was sexual suicide.
Even, now, I wonder what’s stopping me from linking my Instagram profile (showing all my drag ferocity) with my Scruff profile. And why I say “performance” when people ask me what I’m doing at Oasis or The Stud or The Edge.
Toxic (or patriarchal) masculinity
Everyone else’s issue
Totally my issue
All of the above
While I know from lived experience that it’s definitely A, I also just read bell hooks’ “The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love” and know that it’s totally B. But then again I know we live in a male-dominated world that punishes femininity and it’s totally C. But since men dominate the whole world I should just focus on myself, so it’s D!
Final answer—E. All of the above!
But all I get for my right answer is a severe case of compartmentalization; one that has trouble reconciling my love of performing hyper-femininity as a drag queen with my need to fit in to a hyper-masculine sexuality.
To explore the issue further, I decided I wanted to host a community event at Strut to really dig into the topic. I wanted to have this awesome panel about toxic masculinity and its impact on our collective gay psyches so that we can begin to shift our culture.
And then I remembered that most people that write “masculine only” in their hookup app profiles probably aren’t going to come to a panel about toxic masculinity. Most of those folks probably don’t even understand the difference between masculinity and toxic masculinity.
So how do you have open up a community dialogue about drag, sex and toxic masculinity and still, like, have fun?
Last month, I tried out a new format with a few friends at Strut.
Centered on a PowerPoint presentation inspired by the 90s board game Dream Phone, All The T About That D: Drag Queens Talk Trade was a fast-paced, hour-long talk/game show exploring drag queen sexuality through a series of interactive games and prompts about hooking up.
The event featured out-of-drag queens Rock M. Sakura, Tamale Ringwald and U-phoria, who fielded questions like “Have you ever been ghosted for being a queen?” and “On which hookup app do you feel you can be most authentically yourself?”
We also played a few games: Neck Down/Face Up where the queens were asked to identify a drag queen from their faceless torso shot used for hookups; YASS or PASS where they responded to language taken from hookup app profiles; and F/U (for “follow up”) where they guessed the next line in a conversation between a queen and a potential trick.
And our ultimate question—“Does doing drag make you more of a man? Or less of a man?” (Spoiler alert: IT MAKES YOU MORE OF A MAN)
At the end of the event, I still didn’t solve my compartmentalization issue.
But I did learn that other drag queens have been ghosted by tricks when they came out as drag queens. And that other drag queens feel completely disconnected with their sexualities while in drag, and spend countless hours doing hair, makeup and body, but fail to think about their drag persona’s sexuality.
As little boys, most of us are conditioned into masculine conformity—“Don’t be a faggot, Seaman,” “Be a man, Seaman”—adapt to be like everyone else, or face the possibility of being isolated and targeted.
In my teens, I had a lot to deal with masking my own faggotry and dealing with the last name “Seaman,” but I remember watching my friends one day as we teased the effeminate guy in our class—in the back of my head I was so thankful that I wasn’t their target, because I easily could have been.
I look back on that day a lot, and kick myself for not being strong enough to stop their bullying—to stand up next to my sissy friend and to proclaim our sissiness proudly, together.
I couldn’t then. I wasn’t strong enough. So, what’s stopping me now?
To me, being a man isn’t about being first, or biggest or best.
It’s not about needing to seek achievement and status.
It’s not about ignoring emotions.
It’s not about domination.
It’s not about aggression.
It’s not about independence.
It’s not about avoiding femininity.
It’s not even about the ridiculous decision to strap on those 6” platform pumps for five hours even though I know that my feet will start screaming with pain somewhere in the third hour but I’ll just keep smiling.
To me, being a man is being able to accept my hyper-feminine drag persona and my hyper-masculine sexual persona—equally.
It’s about having enough integrity to not care if someone won’t talk to me because I do drag.
It’s about understanding that I need to heal my own pain so I don’t pass it on to others.
It’s about being empathetic, autonomous and connected.
It’s about understanding that I do have shame around being a drag queen, and that the only person I really need to make sure is okay with it is myself.
I can’t tell every gay man out there to do drag. I don’t have enough hours in the day for that many drag children.
But I can tell you that doing drag has made me more of a man by connecting me to my femininity; forcing me to embrace all those feminine qualities that I’ve been told to hate in myself.
Also, I can tell you that most drag queens make excellent lovers.
Kevin Seaman is an interdisciplinary artist and cultural worker influenced by San Francisco’s rich drag culture and history of queer provocation. Sign up for his newsletter to hear more about LOL McFiercen, #femmasculine - a solo performance exploring the intersection of gay male gender identity and sexuality – and Kevin’s role in San Francisco arts advocacy.
Find out about free community events like All The T About That D: Drag Queens Talk Trade happening at Strut by signing up for the Strut newsletter or visiting the Strut event page.
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