Sep 25th, 2019, 11:40 AM

Support Local Drag

By Sofia Smeigh
Minima Gesté during Drag Bingo / Taisia Pirogova
Minima Gesté during the Fédération Française du Bingo Drag Apéro at À la Folie / Photo credit: Taisia Pirogova
Drag is evolving, and so should our attitude towards it.

Spilling the tea. Giving shade. Campy. If you are a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, you have heard these expressions a lot, expressed by impeccably dressed drag queens in their most extravagant costumes. But what do these words really mean, who are the people behind all the makeup and wigs? With the mainstream popularization of drag queens, people have often lost touch with what drag is truly about and how local drag queens still encounter a lot of hostility towards them.

Drag at its core is an expression of queer and trans art. This term refers to wearing the clothing of the opposite sex, otherwise known as cross-dressing. However, nowadays it has evolved into so much more than that. It can be entertaining, but it is also political.

Minima Gesté, a drag queen originally from Toulouse but now living in Paris, has been doing drag since 2015. She originally started with the suggestion of a friend after a break up to keep herself busy. But it transformed into a passion. “It makes me feel free and powerful.”

Since the release of all 11 seasons of Rupaul’s Drag Race to Netflix in 2015, more people, queer or not, have started going to Drag shows. Queens have noticed the shift in behavior people have towards them.  “F*** yes people have started treating us differently,” says Minima, “a lot of people feel entitled, they just see us as entertainment. I had someone the other day take a picture up my skirt. Who does that?”

The drag queens, specifically on RuPauls Drag Race are majority cisgender gay men who stereotypically dress in feminine clothing, with elaborate makeup and wigs, and usually adopt an eccentric persona. “There’s a lack of representation,” says Minima. This is true even on the broader LGBTQ+ spectrum, the show has had very few transgender women and has never had someone non-binary compete. Even though there have been a few ‘freak’ queens on the show, like the winner of season five, Sharon Needles , or the season 11 winner, Yvie Oddly, Minima sees them as “tokens” for the show to claim they are being diverse. 

RuPaul has also received backlash about comments he made during an interview with The Guardian in 2018 stating that drag’s political influence comes from “men dressing up as women” and it “loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it’s not men doing it, because at its core it’s a social statement and a big f-you to male-dominated culture.” . Later he claimed these comments were taken out of context, that people are “trying to create this ‘us against them’ storyline.” He has also in the past equated trans drag queens to doping athletes. These comments bring up the struggles a lot of groups still deal with, even within the queer community, and especially on a local level.

With this rise in fame of mainstream drag culture in the past few years, drag queens have gained substantial platforms to speak about issues that are important to them. Minima expresses that since she has this platform, she feels responsible to use it wisely and bring awareness to different LGBTQ+ issues and associations. A noticeable way she does this is through a bingo event that happens every Sunday evening at À la Folie in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, accompanied by other drag queens in Paris. They support, bring awareness and help raise funds for organizations such as Zaka Sanctuaire, who’s goal is to create a sanctuary for LGBTQ+ exiles and refugees. Other organizations that Minima has been involved with include BAAMSidaction, and others.

Fédération Française du Bingo Drag Apéro at À la Folie / Photo credit: Taisia Pirogova 

The bottom line, drag is a form of self-expression. We often forget while watching shows such as RuPaul's Drag Race, that these queens have been through a lot to get where they are. There are still a lot performers who struggle to be able to express their art openly and safely. So please, find your nearest drag shows, be respectful, and support local drag.

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