April 1st, 2016.
I’m not really sure how we initially heard about Divas of Drag but it was an amazing experience! Divas of Drag is a drag show that was organized by Mimi Imfurst (RPDR Season 3) and we traveled all the way to the depths of Detroit, Michigan to see some of our favourite drag queens. I, (Ryan) got super stoked because Yara Sofia and Trixie Mattel were gonna be there and I love for both of them. Humza was super excited to see one of his biggest drag inspirations – Milk! Any RPDR fan knows that Milk is the epitome of campy-glamour-creativity all mashed into one (very tall) human.
Anyways, we chronicled some of our travels through the vlog you see below so please watch! My video editing skills suck but whatevs, #iphonelyfe. This was one of the first time Humza and I had gone out in full drag since Halloween so were both pretty nervous and excited all the same time. Check it outttt. Humza: And ignore my stupidity and road rage thankssss. 😛
Serious talks tho, this trip was also kind of scary. Drag has become a lot more globally recognized within popular culture largely because of Drag Race. Pre-Drag race, the only exposure drag culture received was from RuPaul her/himself and maybe a couple other hetero- celebrities who would perform in drag as part of a skit or within a comedy *cough* SNL *cough*. However, if you wanted to see the drag queens in your local town, you would have to go to your city’s village and actually step into a drag bar to see the kings and queens perform. However, with the popularity of drag race, it’s becoming much more common to see queer and non-queer people alike engage in the art form.
While we think it’s incredible that the art form has escalated to a point where queerness can be celebrated in such a public sphere, you must always remain cognizant that drag is a act of visible queerness. By this, we mean that engaging in drag performs one’s queer identity in a visual format. As soon as the common person sees a queen, they automatically assume that the individual is probably queer. Sometimes, this can be dangerous. Both of us growing up in Toronto, and entering the drag scene in drag for the past couple months, I have never felt unsafe or fearful of harm in Canada. However, Detroit was a different story.
As soon as we entered Detroit, we were hassled by a customs officer who sort-of? She mockingly joked about us going to a drag show and asked if we were drag queens. This was within 10 seconds of stepping into the city. I get that it’s their job to be aggressive and find out what we’re doing but we just felt really uncomfortable as soon as we left. She let out an insulting snicker as Humza told her that we were going for a drag show, followed by the comment that we were packed awfully light for the occasion. As we walked through the streets trying to find food, the aura surrounding the city was… disheartening? People could tell we were outsiders (maybe in more than one way), and Humza and I got shouted some negative remark from a passenger in a car that was driving by. That hadn’t happened to him in ages before that moment.
As soon we got ready, we even contemplated not going in drag to the show. This was because we were scared. Legit. We went online and saw the amount of LGBTQ hate crimes that had happened in the city and I admit I was a bit terrified. We had to order two $15 cocktails to calm ourselves down. LOL. We ended up leaving the hotel with every eye on us, to disapproving looks and disgusted facial expressions. I have never felt this way in Toronto. We hopped into an uber right away and raced to the club. Both of our anxieties were through the roof. Side note: The elevator stopped at a floor on our way down to the lobby and opened to two kids, around 6 and 10 respectively, and they stood there stunned before running away. LOL #awks
Given all of this, we need to commend the queens who do this on a daily basis, especially in the cities that aren’t as safe as Toronto for LGBTQ peoples. I love that heterosexual and non-queer people are embracing drag as an outlet for expression, but it’s important to remain aware of who this art form is for. There is a privilege in putting on conventionally “feminine” makeup when you are a self-identifying female because when you go out in drag, you’re impersonating a men who is trying to look like a women. BUT, you are still a woman and people will still perceive you as such. PSA: I’m not saying cisgender bioqueens shouldn’t do drag. Not at all. I think it’s awesome. I’m just saying be aware of your own experience because likely you would not have felt the same fear as we did as two queer men of colour. A queer man with a wig and painted face does not receive the same treatment as a heterosexual cisgender woman does.
The show itself was AMAZING. The highlights for us were Milk’s plastic bag couture, Gia Gunn giving us some Kabuki realness, and Trixie tap dancing (what?!). After the show, so many audience members came up to us and praised our looks and took photos with us. It was amazing to get this recognition away from home. One man came up to Humza and looked him in the face, and said ‘Thank you’. He said that the drag Humza portrayed was so authentic and unique, and to continue doing it to represent the aesthetic and the culture he was portraying. If you know Humza personally, you know this almost brought him to tears LOL. Needless to say the drag audience at this show was amazing. ❤
Check out some of our pictures below! One of them was shared by Milk herself! 😀