This photo essay delves into the complexity of drag culture and non-binary identity through an auto-ethnographic study. With the help of my girlfriend, I transform into several drag looks then reflect on the process in relation to gender identity. Each look has a drag name, pronouns, a unique persona, and a song that they would perform to. The project explores drag in relation to gender performativity and gender roles. In the process, I find that drag, for me, functions as an extension of my gender and allows me to perform and embody heightened gendered expressions.
Tuxedhoe Masc is a femme boy. He is here and he is queer. He is gay and here to say, ‘down with toxic masculinity!’ A play on Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, the ideal dream boy, Tuxedhoe Masc is indeed a dreamboat. He is tall, dark and handsome. He is mysterious like Tuxedo Mask, but still emotionally available. He is in touch with his feminine side, his masculinity, and the fluidity of his gender, while still being a confident ladies’ man. Tuxedhoe Masc performs feminist masculinities, disrupting traditional gendered expectations, rejecting male dominance and female degradation, and reinventing masculinity as queer (Basaliere, 2019). Feminist masculinities acknowledge the overarching social contexts in which gendered performances play out, and creates a space for new, healthy masculinities.
Ms Dyswhoria is a bit of a slut. She uses her femininity to play the patriarchal system and get what she wants. She’s a queer queen who fakes straight when she wants something she couldn’t otherwise attain. This act of ‘realness’ (Bailey, 2011) is an act of resilience. The name of this drag look is a play on gender dysphoria. As an AFAB non-binary person, who hasn’t undergone any transition except for some chest binding, in a world where gender roles are rampant, I experience so much social dysphoria. By performing a heightened femininity, I feel as though I’m sticking it to those who dictate that non-binary has a certain look (androgynous, thin, white). I can be hyper-femme and non-binary. Further, I can use that hyper-femininity to exploit the binary gender system that enforces the roles that make me feel this dysphoria.
Song: XS – Rina Sawayama
Stoned Priestx is so extra. Xe doesn’t conform to any rules. This look was the most fun and most difficult to create. Not wanting to conform to masculinity or femininity in anyway, Stoned Priestx beats xyr face to reject traditional gender roles and create endless queer gender possibilities. To xem, traditional gender roles mean nothing; xe envisions a future of queerness and fluidity when it comes to gender. Stoned Priestx breaks the binary and embraces a matrix of infinite gender possibilities. Xe performs to XS by Rina Sawayama as the song is about wanting “more, more, more, more, more,” and Stoned Priestx wants to be the most. Xe is inspired by club kid style and culture which centralizes gender fluidity, extravagance, and DIY aesthetics (Boulay, 2020).
Song: Dynasty – Rina Sawayama
Mixxxed Dynasty is all mixxxed up. In terms of gender, they are queer and fluid. Racially, she is a mix of Chinese, Irish, English and Welsh heritage. This look is an act of reclamation of the appropriation of xyr Chinese culture that frequents the mainstream. White girls is cheongsams, white boys in changshans, popular brands using traditional oriental patterns and materials… The list goes on. Mixxxed Dynasty may be all mixxxed up, but he is sure of one thing: He is tired of the appropriation and bastardization of his culture and he wants to take it back. Mixxxed Dynasty performs to Dynasty by Rina Sawayama, who is also queer and of East Asian descent.
Song: Immaterial – SOPHIE
Dimsumdyke is just as their name suggests: A big ol’ dyke. This final look portrays how, for me, everything is drag. Even my day to day looks feel like drag as non-binary, genderfluid individual. Dimsumdyke’s look is a casual look, nothing campy or extra about it at all, as Dimsumdyke is very shy by nature. They perform to Immaterial by SOPHIE as the lyrics reflect the binary that they feel simultaneously caught between and outside. Further, the more camp-like nature of the song contrasts their shy nature to reflect the internal conflict between being a raging genderqueer dyke and the constraints of conforming to society and appearing ‘acceptable’.
Drag is an art form that can be embodied infinitely. For some drag performers, a drag persona is separate from their day-to-day self (CBC Arts, 2020). Conversely, for other performers, including myself, it is nearly impossible to differentiate between drag and day-to-day gender. This project unveiled realms of gendered possibilities for me, all of which overlap in one way or another. The fluidity of gender is quite apparent in my transformations and queering and rejection of traditional gendered expectations. My drag functions to dismantle oppressive systems and create new, healthy, infinite gender possibilities.
Bailey, Marlon. “Gender/ Racial Realness: Theorizing the Gender System in Ballroom Culture.” Feminist Studies, 37.2 (2011): 365-386.
Basilere, Jae. “Staging Dissents: Drag kings, resistance, and feminist masculinities.” Signs, 44.4 (2019): pp. 979- 999.
Boulay, Nadine. “Week 5- June 12th.” Simon Fraser University, 12 June 2020.
CBC Arts. “We are not worthy of the talents of non-binary ‘drag thing’ Rose Butch.” 14 Feb 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJaOzlAyoLo.