Straight men talk about the experience of being a drag queen.
The drag scene has up until now mainly been the domain of gay men but that’s rapidly changing. Straight men and straight women are not uncommon on the scene these days, both here in Iceland and especially abroad. GayIceland was curious to know how straight men experience being part of the drag scene so we contacted two straight men, Thomas Brorsen Smidt, who is currently performing as the drag queen Jackie Moon, and Gísli Friðrik Sigurðsson, who won the title Drag Queen of Iceland in 2009, and asked them how it felt to be a straight drag queen.
“Older gays can’t believe I’m not gay”
Thomas Brorsen Smidt is a 32 years old straight man who performs as the drag queen Jackie Moon. Thomas is originally from Denmark, and currently finishing his PhD dissertation in gender studies at the University of Iceland. He lives with his girlfriend María in downtown Reykjavik. Thomas performs with the drag queen troupe House of Strike alongside Pixy Strike, James the Creature and Tiffany with a C.
How did it come about that he started doing drag?
“In the past I used to do a lot of acting and was also singer and a drummer in various bands, so performing and being the center of attention always came naturally to me. Then one day a little over a year ago my now drag mother Pixy Strike contacted me pretty much out of the blue and asked if I wanted to be her backup dancer. I said yes immediately and I started to perform with her in the local drag scene.
At first I was just known in the scene as Jack Off, the weird dude acting as Pixy’s de facto sex object on stage. But I was just really enjoying the attention and getting the chance to perform for people again.
Then one day not so long ago Pixy said she would teach me how to be a drag queen because, as she said: “You could slay!” She named me Jackie Moon and I haven’t looked back. Now we’re together in the drag group House of Strike and are planning on tearing it up at Húrra on February 23.”
There are not many straight men doing drag, why do you think that is?
“Because drag is associated with being gay, and many straight guys spend their entire lives dissociating themselves from anything considered gay. I never really connected with this. But there’s a reason why “That’s so gay” or “Ekki vera faggi” are popular terms among straight guys. A lot of them might not engage in overt kinds of homophobia like hauling slurs at or punching gay people – though some do and such incidents seems to be on the rise -, but the phobia still exists as some kind of weird reluctance to be associated with gayness.
I applaud the straight men that come to a drag show for the first time, but I also often hear their nervous laughter and bantering that they use to distance themselves from what is going on. A lot of them seem too afraid to let loose and have a genuinely good time.
I once saw a drunk, straight guy take part in an audience participation game during a drag show. While he was on stage he was constantly yelling profanities to his mates in the audience so as if to say “It’s ok, I’m not gay even though I’m having fun with this.”
If straight men are so visibly uncomfortable just being at a drag show, how do think they’d feel if someone asked them to put on makeup and a dress?”
What do your friends and family think about you being a drag queen?
“I haven’t experienced anything but support from family and friends. Granted, my extended family is in Denmark, but I see a lot of them – only the women though, see reasons above – liking my Instagram posts and stuff like that. If anyone in my family thinks drag is Satan, then they haven’t said anything.
“If you’re straight you can’t really trade your dick for fame in the drag world unless you’re willing to be seriously bi-curious for a while.”
My parents have told me that some of the people they know have inquired as to my sexuality after the whole drag thing began, which I think says something about the extent to which drag and gay are sometimes thought of as being one and the same. But my parents have been particularly supportive and are always talking about how great it would be to come and see me do a show someday. Support from those closest to you means the most. I consider myself very lucky.”
Is there a difference in the attitude of your straight friends and your queer friends regarding your drag performance?
“No, everyone thinks I’m amazing.”
How did the people in the drag scene receive you?
“At first I was received with complete openness and acceptance. Then, after a while, when it began to sink in that I was not just going through a straight phase, disappointment reared its ugly head. I was flattered.”
Are there some obstacles a straight man has to overcome to be appreciated as a drag performer?
“Yeah, it’s hard sleeping your way to the top like some of these other hoes do. I’m not mentioning any names, but there are names, names like Wonda Starr. But I digress. If you’re straight you can’t really trade your dick for fame in the drag world unless you’re willing to be seriously bi-curious for a while.”
“But some of the older gays still cannot, will not, fathom that I’m not gay … the idea of drag queens being gay men is so rooted in their consciousness that they can’t seem to let go.”
Have you ever been accused of cultural appropriation by the more PC gays?
“No, never. But some of the older gays still cannot, will not, fathom that I’m not gay. For some people the idea of drag queens being gay men is so rooted in their consciousness that they can’t seem to let go.”
In “the old days” it was almost only gay men who did drag but it seems to be changing rapidly with the entrance of so called bio-queens – women as drag-queens – on the drag scene. Do you think there is some major shift going on regarding drag performances?
“Yes, definitely. I actually really dislike the terms bio-queen and faux-queen. A drag queen is a drag queen regardless of whether she tucks or not, and having separate terms for girls who do drag I think is a way of othering women in the scene. But that’s just my opinion, I don’t like to go around term-policing in a drag community that has decades of struggles behind it that I will never understand as a straight man.”
Did not experience any negativity
Gísli Friðrik Sigurðsson is a 37 years old straight family man who works in a shop in Reykjavík. Gísli was one of the first straight men to perform in drag in Iceland.
It was on a dare from his friend that he started performing in drag and the results were stunning. He even went as far as to win the title Drag Queen of Iceland back in 2009. How was the feeling to win that title as a straight man?
“It was a bit weird. It took me about fifteen minutes to realize that I had actually won, but then I quickly got used to the idea.”
What did the other contestants think of a straight man winning the competition?
“I did not experience any negativity at the time, but I heard there had been discussions about it later. I don’t know if that is true and I didn’t take it to heart. My feeling is that overall there were no negative voices surrounding my victory.”
“It took me about fifteen minutes to realize that I had actually won, but then I quickly got used to the idea.”
How did the people in your inner circle react?
“They were surprised, but at the same time they were happy for me and very supportive.”
Now there are more straight men performing in drag, what is your reaction to that?
“I think it is a positive evolution. It’s great that straight and queer people are united in this.”
What do you think of the icelandic drag scene today?
“I think it is good on the whole. Some performers are more original than others, but that is how it goes in this scene.”
Do you find the scene much altered since you were part of it?
“The scene is always changing. There are constantly new stories being told and the acts are evolving all the time. The shows keep getting more professional and the settings more extravagant from year to year.”
Would you be willing to start performing again?
“Never say never!”