Ten essential rules for watching a drag show (by a real-life drag queen)
Lily’s alter-ego gives you a handy list of ways not to make a fool of yourself when you’re watching a drag show.
Greetings drag fans, my name is Mariana Trench (@marianatrenchdrag) and I am a drag queen. My particular brand is a combination of live singing, comedy and burlesque and I’ve been doing it for three years. As drag becomes more mainstream, you may be interested in visiting a local drag show (and please do!) Here are the essential rules to make sure everybody has a good time!
1. Please don’t talk while a performer is on stage.
I don’t know about anybody else, but I have a huge ego, and if you’re talking while I’m on stage, my ego is shrinking by the second. What perplexes me the most is that you usually pay to watch a drag show, so if you decide to talk over anybody’s performance you are wasting your own money. This doesn’t mean you should remain in steely silence while we’re strutting our stuff on stage. I’d like to hear cheering, whooping and if you simply can’t restrain yourself, give me a ‘Yassss, queen’ – but don’t chat over my set.
Look, after a few drinks we think we’re all comedians, but heckling is something that drives fear into my heart and into the hearts of my fellow performers. If you think you have a hilarious adage, keep it to yourself. If I have one solid request, it’s please, please don’t be like the person who shouted, ‘Get your tits out!’ at me during a Christmas show. Not nice.
2. Don’t touch me.
‘See with your eyes, not with your hands,’ is a phrase taken from The Simpsons, and is a philosophy I wholeheartedly believe in. I KNOW my wig looks amazing and yes, those are real rhinestones on my face, but this is not a petting zoo! I don’t know where your hands have been, especially if this is a late-night gig. As somebody who used to work in a nightclub, everybody gets really laissez-faire with handwashing at around 12am. Your pissy hands do not need to touch my wig!
Aside from the general rudeness of touching without consent, I’m sure that it goes without saying that you should not ever touch somebodies bum, breasts, chest, tuck, legs or anything else without their explicit permission. You wouldn’t touch my bum through my leggings, so what about just wearing knickers suddenly makes it okay? Keep your hands off performer’s bodies.
3. This is not your show.
I think this should go without saying, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t understand this very simple rule. Stay off the stage. Maybe you’re Gaga’s biggest fan but that doesn’t give you permission to get in front of an audience, push the drag performer out of the way and launch into a full choreographed routine to ‘Born This Way.’ If you’re so good at dancing, hone it and become a queen in your own right, don’t hog anybody else’s limelight.
4. Put your phone down
Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people take videos or photos from shows on their phones, as it’s another way of showing that you appreciate the performer so much that you want to keep a record of the night, but checking your emails and deciding that the middle of this show is the best time to purchase those corn plasters from Amazon… not cool.
I might be wearing several pairs of eyelashes and be partially blinded by stage lights, but I know the difference between somebody filming for Instagram and somebody who is trying to decide what sort of pizza they should order from Dominos when they get home.
5. Our gender is our business.
Drag is genderless, which means you may become confused about what gender somebody identifies as, but guess what? It’s none of your business. If a performer’s pronouns are ‘she/her’ or ‘he/him’ or ‘they/them’ you had better refer to them as such. I don’t give a flying monkey about what you think their pronoun should be, you need to respect everyone’s gender identities. If you’re not willing to follow this rule, you’re not welcome at any drag show as far as I’m concerned.
And for those people who are desperate to know what sort of genitals drag performers have? That is for us to know, and for you to NEVER ENQUIRE ABOUT.
6. I am not a ‘Ru’ girl.
I don’t care if you’ve seen every single season of RuPaul’s Drag Race – please do not bring your limited view of drag to a show. In the real world, drag is so much more than a fierce look and a tight lip-synch. It’s weird, it’s political, it’s sexy, it’s funny and it’s sometimes ugly and confusing and emotional but it’s all drag. And it is all valid. Just because you’ve not seen it on Drag Race doesn’t mean it’s not real.
I’m an ‘AFAB queen’ (which stands for assigned female at birth) and I’m just as valid as any ‘AMAB’ (assigned male at birth) queen who gets up in drag and performs. As I said before, I don’t care if you’re a Drag Race superfan, this is different. This is real.
7. We can see you.
As I’ve said, yes, performers may be wearing multiple pairs of eyelashes and be partially blinded by stage lights, but we can see you and the faces you are pulling. Please be respectful and for goodness sake, smile! The tiniest inflection of disapproval in your face could bring a performer’s confidence crashing to the floor. Even if you’re not enjoying a performance, an outward display of your boredom is crushing. Smile, clap along and wait for it to be over before you turn away to talk to your friends.
Oh, you’re also super visible if your back is to the stage. That’s just RUDE.
8. Refrain from getting too drunk.
You’re there to have a good time, I understand that. But please don’t get too smashed. I’m going to be really annoyed if my performance is overshadowed by your drunken caterwauling, or there’s a disruption to the show because you’ve vomited on the onstage queen and their boot is now filled with a mixture of WKD and Pringles.
9. GET YOUR HANDS OFF.
The most important.
10. Not wedding DJs
I, for one, will never take requests and most other performers won’t either. Often, we could not give two shits if ‘Dancing Queen’ is your absolute favourite song, and your repeated bellowing of its title is not going to make us want to perform it any more than before. We may have spent weeks, maybe even months, planning this act! Learning the words, choosing a costume and making sure that second of this song is perfect, so I’m not just going to ‘have a go’ at Mr.Brightside! Also, don’t care if it’s you or your friend’s birthday – you’ll not get a song out of me.
Thank you to my fellow performers for their salty contributions: Gwaed, Oliver Assets, Roxy Stardust, Discharge, Isaac Dix, Jessica Jungle, Dee Ryder, Luna Sea, Roddy Jodpurs, Haem, Malady Masterwart, Fenella Beach, Ambiguous A, Pom Pom , Lily Belle and Clare Lowe
(P.S. Keep your damn hands to yourself!)