I’m A Female Drag Queen

You don’t have to be a man in a dress to be a drag queen.

For the last four years, I’ve stood side by side with some of the most talented drag professionals in the business, giggling over dirty jokes and cocktails as we prepare for our weekly drag show. Despite, or perhaps because of, my female genitalia, my sisters in drag accept me lovingly into their circle, sharing tips, sharing costumes, and, if the size is right, even sharing shoes in order to lift each other up into the array of hot stage lights to perform to an eager crowd that is often standing-room only. It’s the truest form of sisterhood and female camaraderie I’ve ever found in my life – and most of them are dudes.

Our little show, the biggest of its kind in Alaska, features drag queens (men impersonating females), drag kings (women impersonating men), a couple transgendered performers who are making the slow and often heart wrenching transition to the gender they should have been born with, a few gay performers who sing live, and myself – the show’s only genetic female drag queen. I also sing live. I’m not the first “real lady” drag queen our variety show has seen. The way was paved for me by our previous show hostess, a ballsy singer with a “don’t fuck with me” attitude and a shoe collection to die for.

I found myself alone at Mad Myrna’s, Alaska’s biggest gay cabaret and nightclub, exactly two weeks after my divorce was finalized. I had married my first boyfriend after an impossibly trite high school romance at the much-too-young age of 18, filled with the sort of hopeful nonsense that love is all you need. After 6 years, it turned out we both needed much more than that, and called it quits.

After I left my husband, I moved in with a crazy (in a good way) broad I’d found looking for a roommate on Craigslist. We were at least 20 years apart in age, and her dog desperately wanted to be friends with my two cats, who spent most of their time moping in bed with me while I tortured myself with romantic comedies.

But Alaska is a weird place, and if you don’t get out of your house in the wintertime, you can go legitimately insane. With only 2 or 3 shreds of self-esteem to my name, I wasn’t ready to go into straight bars and face rejection and judgment from men who couldn’t possibly be attracted to a 25 year-old, overweight divorcee, but I did somehow find the strength to put on my favorite jeans, a pair of heels, a low-cut black shirt, and head to the gay bar. Alone. On a Friday. What the hell?

I’d never been to a drag show before. I knew what a drag queen was, obviously, but I’d never seen what happens after the dude looks like a lady. There was so much energy, talent, charisma, and glitter on that stage, and I was completely hypnotized. Having been a bit of a theater geek my entire life, I coveted the spotlight. I wanted to be up there, glamorous and beautiful. I wanted people to cheer for me. I wanted that applause.

I wanted to be a drag queen.

Share This Post:
    • Lindsay

      Well written Colleen. I didn’t know your whole story, but I love that it taught you to be as confident and brash as you are :)

    • Amanda Chatel

      Love. Love. Love.

    • Rezia

      I love this! Great article. I teared up at the end.

    • Alex

      wow.. that was SO well written! what a great uplifting story, and an amazing writer. I felt like i was sitting right next to her listening to her story.

    • Nat

      Do you have any videos of your performances? I’m interested.

    • Raquel Velasquez

      As a trans woman, I wish I could do drag shows and not have to face the risks that trans women and male drag queens are forced to face. I wish I could just do this empowerment and self-expression without exposing myself to the transphobic violence that drag culture was created to resist. Is there not a single act of resistance that we can make that won’t be co-opted and redefined by cisgender heterosexual white women?

    • Strawbrrycherry

      Wow….this article is just oozing with cis-het and white lady privilege ..what is wrong with white women? Why must ya’ll just stick your noses in shit that doesn’t even belong to you? Please consider the risks that actual transwomen who do drag shows have tot ake to participate in their cultures and stop being an appropriating asshole…

      • larawho

        can you please not use the word y’all if yr just going to misspell it…

      • Strawbrrycherry

        What does that have to do with anything I just said? Please go somewhere you are useless….

      • Strawbrrycherry

        And then you had the nerve to spell your ‘yr’ after chastising me for spelling a friggin colloquialism wrong?….what is your life about?

      • larawho

        we all have our pet peeves, it’s not a crime

      • Strawbrrycherry

        Yes, and you just HAD to talk about it on a comment on an article about the appropriation of trans culture…that was the most appropriate place to talk about your inane crap…

      • larawho

        i dunno i’ve always found tangents pretty beautiful

      • Amanda Chatel

        Your racism is showing… and it’s pretty vulgar.

      • Strawbrrycherry

        So I’m racist cuz I called the white lady a white lady? And pointed out the very apparent trend of cultural appropriation that white ladies like the one pictured above love to participate in? Imma need you to read a book…..

    • BreStump

      I don’t understand how you can be a drag queen if you’re not actually in drag.

    • Sara

      Why do you have to refer to yourself as a drag queen? What you’re doing is cool, there’s nothing wrong with dressing up like that & singing and whatever… but the reason you get ‘flack’ is because you refer to yourself as a drag queen. You’re not. Women who get super dressed up and wear intense make up and get on stage and sing aren’t drag queens, they’re woman on stage singing. Otherwise Lady GaGa and Nicki Minaj and like 99% of female artists would be drag queens, too. They’re not. You’re not a drag queen because that’s not your alternative life. You wouldn’t be shamed and ostracized for getting on stage in make up and a dress and a wig and singing. You wouldn’t worry about losing your job over it, get it?

      Get up on stage and sing, girl. Dress up all you want. Feel good about yourself. That’s awesome. But don’t co-opt the term drag queen and make it all about what it does for you. It’s not yours.

    • http://www.facebook.com/akbarnetts Gina Barnett

      Fabulous article, Colleen! From day I met you I know you were a vibrant, “dynamic” person, and liked you immediately! I never would have known what you felt inside (yes, that was during your years of rediscovering yourself). Although we don’t see each other often, I love reading your posts and blog entries. And yes, I knew immediately who you were talking about when you described the tall blonde!