The List: Top eight truths and misconceptions about drag and gender performance

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Drag might be a whole lot more than you thought

TRUE. There are queens, kings, bio-queens, bio-kings, boy dancers, femmes, burlesque and trans performers. There's also a variety of styles: comedic, glamorous, female or male impersonators, arty and intellectual, political, irreverent and so on. In short, drag and gender performance in Columbus is an explosion of creativity that will probably surprise you, make you laugh and/or make you think.

Drag is no drag, but it can be a grind

TRUE. Drag is like any other skill. It requires hours of preparation (not just on performance day, but in planning, editing music, sewing costumes, practicing numbers, booking shows, etc.), and working evenings or traveling to perform can be exhausting.

People who do drag want to wear drag all the time

FALSE. The more a person performs the less time they spend in drag, because drag is part of his or her "job." Like any other person's work uniform, once the shift is over, the uniform comes off.

Drag performance is all glamour and money

FALSE. Large shows can cost up to $5,000 for costumes, props and set design. There are shows with elaborate puppetry, original videos, choreographed lighting and fog machines. It's truly an art form and a labor of love.

It's a field that demands overtime, but requires another job

TRUE. For the most successful performers, drag is essentially a full-time commitment. But it's hard to make a living. Only one performer in Columbus I know of can make his living as a drag queen, and he never stops working. The others are also bankers, retail workers, salespeople, academics and so on.

People who do drag want to have sex in drag

FALSE. "I can't think of something less sexual than doing this," one drag performer said to me - a sentiment echoed over and over. While drag often celebrates sexuality itself, every performer I spoke with said their interest in drag performance generally falls into one or more of these categories: gender commentary, political expression, a theatrical performance outlet or community connection.

"Drag makes you think about gender itself, whether it's meant to or not, and whether you realize it or not."

TRUE. One of the people in KQIB said this, and it perfectly captures the essence of drag. By presenting different visions of gender onstage, drag inherently questions the binary model of gender division, of sexuality and of biology. Drag blurs these lines and makes you question them, because when you're watching someone dressed as a woman dancing next to another performer who is biologically a woman, you might even subconsciously reflect on what it IS to be a woman in our culture. And this is imperative stuff to think about.

Nothing is 100 percent true or false for drag

TRUE/FALSE. Everyone has different definitions of drag, and different reasons for performing it or loving it as an art form. My biggest hope in "Kings, Queens, & In-Betweens" is that people will see no one can be put into a box and that we have to open up these dividing lines to more accurately reflect the reality we live in. Ultimately, I can't really tell you what's true or false. You'll have to just come to the drag shows and see for yourself.