I am a cis-woman who enjoys doing drag makeup when I can, because I look up to Drag Queens so much and the loving and powerful path they have paved for the LGBTQ+ community. I spend hours and sometimes the whole day just doing drag makeup, because it also represents the fact that I used to be a very theatrical and confident kid – I did so much acting and drama practice as well as productions and plays, dance concerts, debating, speech contests, (oh-so-embarrassing) video comedy skits on youtube, I played flute, clarinet and piano for a while, heck, I even tried singing lessons because I thought that I could even learn to fix my dying cat voice.
I love and have so much respect for the performance arts in every single way and form and so when I saw my first drag show at 12, I fell in love with the magic that Drag Queens have and share. However, I ended up losing all of my confidence and became even more shy and reserved than I ever was not long after. I will talk about in another post about how I was a very loud and confident kid who did not know what the feeling of “embarrassment” or being “nervous” felt like, but then turned into someone who had no faith in myself, hated every single part of my personality, appearance, body and character, had ptsd and therefore was too scared and had too much anxiety to even leave the house, let alone my bed for a good while. Now I am still fairly shy, but despite social and environmental anxiety I am leaving the house and trying my goddamn best in every way possible to come out of my shell, come out of my comfort zone, not be ashamed of myself and grow my confidence back to once again become the person who was not afraid to be my odd and (almost) charming self.
So for me, when I spend the hours to glue down my eyebrows and use all of the very little money I have to buy colourful makeup, just to create a messy drag makeup look, it is my way of trying to regain my confidence and become more loving of myself. The more of a mask I put on, the more I embrace the part of myself that loves art, creation, fun and a loving community. I recently went out in public in this makeup for the first time and despite anxiety, it was such a healing time for me to be able to do something that is important to me and a step forward for my confidence.
Another post I need to write about is my journey of embracing, then rejecting and now trying to embrace my femininity. I will not go into too much detail about it right now, but I have always been a very feminine person, but I have had experiences that have made me ashamed of this. I am talking about experiences of slut-shaming, homophobia within and outside the LGBT+ community for being a feminine or “girly” or “fake” lesbian and other experiences that has led me to see my body as a “little boy’s body.” I was not a woman, because I did not have big boobs or curves or a maturer looking face and all my life I have struggled with liking or even tolerating my own body, leading to very destructive behaviours, because I had a very distorted view of it – the story that I told myself was that I look like a little boy and certain people in my life have only reinforced this fucked-up idea I have of myself.
Therefore, due to all of these reasons and more, I wore only over-sized t-shirts and baggy jeans, cut my hair short, I stopped wearing makeup and I tried to present myself in a more masculine way, even in my personality. I even stopped eating and started throwing up and taking part in other destructive behaviours, because if I could not have a curvy body or big boobs, then at least I could be stick thin. I needed to prove to others that I was “actually” gay (which I look back to and absolutely hate) and if I and some people saw me as not a (stereotypical and extremely toxic society’s viewpoint of what makes up a “real”) woman, then I might as well present myself not as one. I still struggle to wear and present myself in the feminine way I used to, I still refuse to wear shirts that fit me and despite my very feminine personality, I do not want to grow out my hair (I like it) and I still feel the most comfortable in big shirts and jeans. I do not see any problem with this — my style/way of presenting myself as it is right now is completely a valid thing for a woman. But when I wear a dress, when I put on a good amount of makeup, when I wear tight, pretty shirts and skirts like I used to, when I even allow myself to eat a lot and look in the mirror and tell myself that my body is a feminine one, I am saying “fuck you!” to my insecurities and most importantly I am embracing my femininity. By doing drag, I am embracing my womanhood and I don’t think I should be shamed for that.
Something that brings the self-doubt and anxiety back is the reminder that a lot of Drag Queens, gay men or other people think that it is not okay for a cis-woman to do drag. I understand their point of view – it is more of a risk for men to do drag, there is more at stake, there has been more discrimination against them, more hate-crimes and as a cis-woman, I do not have to tuck, I have a more “feminine” canvas/body/face (whatever that means) etc. But I also have a very strong opinion about the right that women have to be able to do drag, that I hope that you can try to understand as well. I am very passionate about this topic and I do hate it when people come up to me and say that I am not allowed to do something that I love, so here is what I have to say on the matter. This is just a reminder that you do not have to agree with me and the last thing I want to do in this world is to hurt, harm or do wrong by someone or a group of people that I respect so highly. I do not believe that me doing this actually harms others however, because I am doing something that is helping me and my mental health and is helping me embrace my own homosexuality and helping me heal the idea I have grown up with – the idea that I am not a woman.
Why I think Women can do Drag
The photo above compares me with minimal makeup vs. heavy makeup vs. drag makeup
This is for those who want to say that women can’t do drag, because there’s no transformation to work with. Even with heavy makeup, I do not look like how I look in drag makeup, so it’s not just a case of, “putting on an extreme eye and calling it drag.” I believe that drag makeup is a completely different ball field than “normal” makeup. I hear often that one reason why cis-women can’t do drag is because we are born with a “feminine” face (which is not universally true) and that we can go out everyday wearing a dramatic eye and we can’t just call it drag. I agree to a certain degree. It sucks, but I do believe that with where the world is now, if women want to be a part of the drag scene, they must go above and beyond and work incredibly hard in the quality of their field to be taken seriously. *cough* Much like what women have had to in every other “male-dominated” job, hobby or area… But that is another topic. ;P
But if one of the reasons you think that women can’t do drag is because we are more likely and more allowed to wear makeup in public and that that by nature is not drag, then I must bring up one point… I love the fact that recently, more men are wearing makeup. Not Drag Queens, mind you, but as each year goes along, more people are starting to say “fuck you!” to cookie-cutter assigned gender-roles, and therefore more men are embracing their right to take part in the art that is makeup. This is bloody wonderful and it makes me so excited to see that for gay, straight men or otherwise, it has become more acceptable for men to wear casual or dramatic makeup in public.
We can all agree that these men are not drag queens. They are just wearing makeup as who they are, not as any other character or persona. They are not doing a “female impersonation” or actually calling what they are doing “drag.” They are, in every right, doing the same thing as women wearing makeup when they get ready for the day. So if we can see the difference between men/gender fluid/non-binary people who just happens to have a penis (shock-horror!) doing makeup (aka: Jeffree Star, Manny MUA, James Charles) and actual Drag Queens (Trixie Mattel, Bianca Del Rio, Latrice Royale, Karen from Finance) then why can’t we do the same for people who just happens to have a vagina? (Shock-horror!)
We can all agree that makeup is not gendered – there are no shackles chained to a MAC eyeshadow palette that scans your genitals and gender-identity and then refuses to allow you to open the product. Makeup is open to all and there is a difference between a cis-man, trans-man or a person with a penis putting on makeup and those people being a Drag Queen. So why is it not the same for cis-women, trans-women or people with a vagina? What is Drag, really? Is it really, by definition, a man with a penis, impersonating a female and performing? Maybe you think so, but I have a different definition. For me it is valid, it doesn’t have to be for you.
To me, Drag is an art – It is an expression of gender, something that can be exaggerated as to portray a character.
I think “expression,” is a key word, because Drag is what you make it and it is a beautiful representation of the LGBTQ+ community, which I think is incredibly key – it is a performance, it is fun, it is bringing a group together, not further apart. I do not feel like I am “culture appropriating” the LGBT+ community because I am a lesbian and therefore a part of it. Not only should there be less separation and more love and coming together between lesbian and gay people, the LGBTQ+ family and everybody else should come together as well.
We have too much discrimination coming our way, so why do we need to add more? The goal is to be equal, but still celebrate our diversity and be proud of who we love, and I think that allowing Drag to be about the LGBTQ+ family, expression, fun, love and art is so much more important than what is between our legs or what we identify as. I believe as long as you are using Drag to share more love and more equality between people, especially the LGBTQ+ community and minorities who need empowerment, then it is Drag.
I am sorry that you are so obsessed with what is between the legs of that performer you see on stage, but a penis does not equal drag. And if you think it does, then can I ask you, do you also think that trans-women do not have the right to do drag, whether or not she has had a “transition,” which is something that is none of your business in the first place? Trans-women and therefore WOMEN have paved the way for Drag Queens. You are allowed to think it does matter what you identify as and the genitals that you have when it comes to drag, but if you do think this, I am just asking you to possibly take a bit of time to think about why you think so.
Now, some people have also said that if you do present yourself as a woman or have a vagina, then if you want to do drag, then you should be a Drag King. I think it is awesome that cis-women, trans-women, people with vaginas and people with penises are doing an exaggerated masculine presentation of gender, AKA being a Drag King! In fact, I have dabbled in being a Drag King some years ago – contouring my face in an exaggerated masculine way, binding, putting on a fake beard, doing my hair in a “male” way or wearing a male wig, wearing guy’s clothes, packing and even going out in public and doing a masculine personality and way of speaking. It was fun and I thought at the time it was very empowering for me to blend the lines of gender, which is also what Drag means to me.
But with where I am now, it would be more upsetting than empowering to be a Drag King, because of what I talked about before about how I completely rejected my womanhood growing up and had a very toxic opinion about my allegedly “little boy” appearance. I have so much respect for Drag Kings, but that art is not for me and I don’t believe I should be forced to do something that personally, brings me down rather than raises me up. Like I spoke about before, I love doing Drag Queen makeup, because it empowers me, it helps my issues with confidence and self-esteem and it allows me to embrace my femininity and womanhood, and allows me to take part in something that is so important to me and influences my life in every way – art.
So yes, being a Drag King is an amazing option for cis-women, trans-women, people with vaginas, penises and otherwise. Notice how I am not gendering genitals – genitals are not gendered by nature, they are simply just what they are – a penis, a vagina, or other, such as for intersex people or in other circumstances. Your vagina or penis or otherwise can be a male body part, or a female one, or whatever you want to identify it as according to your gender or what is most comfortable for you. I want to stop the weird idea that penises are male genitals by default and that vaginas are female genitals by rule. Just because something is a majority and is more common, does not make it universally true.
While it is a great option (being a Drag King, that is) for people in my “group,” it is not the only option. So in comes the terms, “Bio Queen” and “Faux Queen.” At first I really embraced the term Bio Queen – it explains in the most literal way that keeps most people happy, that I am a biological cis-woman with a vagina, doing Drag in a feminine way. But when I thought more about this term and how fucked it is, I realised it was more dividing rather than accepting. It literally highlights the fact that I have a vagina and therefore discriminates pre-transition trans-women who wants to do Drag, gender-fluid or non-binary people who wish to not be defined by what is between their legs and is basically shutting out so many women out there in the world who want to be part of this beautiful thing.
Drag is an art that is part of the LGBTQ+ community and the whole point of our community is to not to discriminate against diversity, to accept each other and our identities and sexual orientations, and to be a loving response and action against those who wish us not to be equal. So I find it kind of hypocritical and fundamentally unhealthy, to have cis-women who want to do drag to call themselves a Bio Queen, because all that does is create a level of inequality and discrimination especially against those who do not fit under the “Bio” label. If you wish to and do call yourself or others one, then that’s your choice and all the power to you. But if you do, all I am asking for is the possibility that you stop and think about what that label actually represents in our community.
I think it is fairly obvious why the term Faux Queen is not really liked by me, because it literally means, “Fake Queen.” What, as to oppose a “Real” one? I think it’s a bit weird to call someone as talented and amazingly skilled as Creme Fatale a “fake” queen, when she is such a professional and real one. It seems to say to the world, “You will not accept me as a real Drag Queen, because of the fact I have a vagina or because of my gender identity, so I am therefore a fake one, despite any work I put into this profession or art-form.” Oh no, Creme Fatale has boobs and a vagina… Everybody freak out! As if any lack of acceptance of what she is doing from other people invalidates her Drag and stops her doing her thing… I mean… “Why are you so obsessed with me?”
Coming back to what actually is Drag, some people are a bit confused where is the line between “normal makeup” and “drag makeup.” Like I said before, it is a bit sad, but with where the world is now, I do believe that if a person with a vagina wants to be taken seriously for their drag, they do have to go above and beyond to prove themselves. I am not saying I agree with this mentality, all I am saying is we have to work with what we got at this moment of time. To get past the point where we have to be perfect to be simply acceptable then we need to work with some superficial things that people look for when they want to validate someone with a vagina doing Drag.
I think the most obvious one is gluing down eyebrows. That is not to say if you do not glue down your eyebrows then you are not doing drag (I’m not throwing shade to Queens who don’t – doing Drag is about the character you are performing, so those who do a very “fishy” look are valid) but the issue here is that people will continue to say that “That’s not drag!” to cis-women and otherwise who do some slightly dramatic makeup and throw on a wig. And that’s fair enough, at least with where Drag is right now.
It’s a bit nonsensical to give someone a list of all the physical prerequisites of what doing Drag actually means (glueing down eyebrows, extremely exaggerated almost-clown looking makeup, padding, fake boobs, huge wig, tucking, cinching, shaving, etc) when there are so many Drag Queens who do not do these things and are still valid. AKA Raja Gemini, one of my favourite queens, is known to often do a very androgynous shape – she often goes for the “super-model” body which more-or-less involves no padding, cinching or fake boobs. And we all know how beautiful and valid her drag is.
Some other examples are Willam, Courtney Act and Katya Zamolodchikova who do very “fishy” makeup that looks very similar to how “real” women actually do their faces, which sometimes involves no eyebrow glueing. Or they do glue down their eyebrows, but they work with the shape or placement that their natural eyebrow usually goes. The fact that their makeup looks more “natural” does not make their drag less valid. So how does this relate to “women” doing drag?
There are so many things that can make up a Drag Queen. A “woman” doing drag, can still pad, cinch, put on fake boobs, put on a huge, stylised wig, shave, accessorise, wear a dramatic and expensive costume, wear 6 inch+ heels, spend hours and lots of money on a very dramatic drag makeup look, contour their boobs, work on their flexibility and fitness, practice day and night on lip-syncing, dancing and performing and go out to actual paid gigs regularly as their source of income. They can be the pinnacle of professional drag, but could still not be taken seriously because they do not tuck, an admittedly very uncomfortable sounding process that I give all the props to people who do it. Ouch.
The point I am trying to make is that a person with a vagina could literally perfect their craft and be incredibly talented, but since they do not have a penis, the only way they could be accepted as a Drag Queen is if they were perfect at it, and that doesn’t even guarantee that their drag will even be validated. You can argue the point that do we even need validation, but in an art-form that is literally part of a community founded on the goal of equality, love and acceptance and the importance of been seen as equal, then yes, I do think that someone is allowed to care about whether their drag is validated.
So where the world is right now, it might be the case that you have to work really hard in this profession or passion, if you have a vagina, and if you do a “fishy” look, then people will say to you that what you are doing isn’t drag. Thankfully for me, I am in love with Drag, partly because of the drama of its expression. That is to say, even if it was acceptable for a “woman” to do a natural looking makeup and call it drag, I wouldn’t, because part of the fun of it is creating the illusion, doing something beautiful and wacky and exaggerated and painting my face like it is a canvas. It is an art to me. So I am not overly bothered that if I wanted someone to even accept that I am doing drag-inspired makeup then I need to glue down my eyebrows and paint myself with large eyelids and eyebrows on my forehead. However, I do find it a bit sad that those who find their love in the performance and character they are portraying itself and are not too fussed about the makeup side of it, will be told what they are doing is not drag, when men who do the exact same thing with natural makeup are told that it IS drag.
I have not even scraped the surface of what I think about this topic, but my goal is to make it universally accepted and validated that women can do Drag and can be a Drag Queen. I do not call myself a Drag Queen, because I have never performed, so I call what I am doing “Drag Makeup.” That is not to say that if you have never performed then you are not a Drag Queen, but because I am a cis-woman, I feel like I need to prove myself before I can own that beautiful and wonderful title. I won’t lie, it’s a dream of mine to be a Drag Queen. I’ve literally spent so many hours physically dreaming at night about performing as Smoky Bacon, but in this moment of time, my priority is focusing on my confidence and my “shyness” and working on my self-esteem so that I can come back to one of my first loves – performing.
One day when I worked through things and I am given the opportunity, maybe I will actually become what I so greatly respect. At the moment I am just working on saving up for a wig, good quality makeup (most of my stuff is $2 from Wish) outfits, working on getting back to sewing so I can design my own outfits, working on my fitness, flexibility and being able to walk and dance in heels, getting padding, a corset, shoes, jewellery, fake boobs and whatever else. The problem is that I do not have the money, but I am working my hardest to be the best that I can, because I truly want to do drag. I have so much respect for the Drag Queens that have paved this path before me. I want to thank them and celebrate them and let them know that I am not trying to threaten your craft by being so interested in it, I want to celebrate it and you, as well as celebrate it WITH you.
I have only started doing drag makeup for 6 months (literally today, the 12th of June is my 6 month anniversary) but I want to improve so much and I believe each time I work on my drag makeup, that I am learning so much and improving. I want all the help I can get, because this really does matter to me. If you want to see where I am at currently, my instagram account for Smoky Bacon, my drag persona (the name has a funny but embarrassing backstory) is @smokybacondrag Hello, shameless plug!
I really do want it to be accepted for women to do Drag. By making the community bigger, yes there is more risk. You might think it might blur the lines of it being a “gay” art. But there is also more possibility for love, equality and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community and I believe if we allow it to be about the art and the acceptance of who we are and who we love, not what is between our legs, then it can be celebrated even MORE for being a gay art. I want to make the world accept us, I want to further celebrate the LGBTQ+ family and I want to share love, fun, family and art. And I think that accepting women doing drag, including queer women, will be the first step of going forward.