Kings, queens, and divas

    It’s 6:45 on Friday night, and in the Price Center Theater, a guy in a cheerleader’s uniform is adjusting his brassiere.

    Colin Young-Wolff
    Guardian

    He looks downstage at one of his similarly attired friends and asks gravely, “”Are my boobs bigger than yours, Todd?””

    A girl in boxy, mannish clothes leers, “”Yeah, I want to go out with Todd — he has better tits.”” She laughs, and adds, “”Sorry, I’m being a heterosexual male.””

    Divas in Denial, the UCSD Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Association’s seventh-annual drag show, wouldn’t start until 8 p.m., but the gender-bending was already well under way.

    Colin Young-Wolff
    Guardian

    Drag, cross-dressing, transvestism — under any name, the practice of wearing the clothes of the opposite sex and often attempting to “”pass”” as a gender not your own — is nothing new; remember that only men were allowed to perform on stage in ancient Greek theater and in Shakespearian England.

    The LGBT community has been identifying through drag for quite a while, too — so much so that LGBTA principal member Brian Latham considers the event “”like [the LGBTA’s] culture night, our spirit night.””

    He explained, “”This is where the community comes together; we share a part of our culture with each other and the rest of the community. We get to run around and celebrate and do the kind of stuff that people weren’t able to do even 10 years ago.””

    Jennifer Hartman, a go-go dancer at the San Diego bar The Flame, was asked to dance to Pink’s “”Get This Party Started”” in the show. She explained drag in terms of theater.

    “”I think that everyone has their own method of expressing themselves, and whether you’re an artist or a drag king or whatever you are … the whole thing is the theatrics of it all,”” she said. “”It’s whoever you want to be at the moment.””

    In the men’s room, with 30 minutes to showtime, participant Mikey Kaufman applied eyeshadow to Revelle sophomore Sean LaPerruque in the men’s room adjacent to the makeshift backstage dressing room. Kaufman explained that his involvement with “”Divas in Denial”” is about more than women’s clothing.

    “”I got started the first year I came out, and I knew it was something that I’ve always wanted to do: do drag, perform, be in front of an audience, gender-bend, what have you,”” Kaufman said.

    And how did he choose to lip sync “”Sweet Surrender”” and “”Ice Cream,”” songs by Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachlan?

    “”Sarah McLachlan is my goddess, and this is the second year I’m doing her, so it’s not so much drag for me as it is performance art,”” he said.

    LaPerruque weighed in on the drag experience as well: “”It’s very interesting to feel what a girl feels like, and all the crap that –“”

    Kaufman interrupted, “”Oh, this is not what a girl feels like …”” and they continued, overlapping:

    “”I shaved my legs last night, and it was hell!””

    “”…Well, what it feels like for a girl to get ready and go out somewhere, and be considered a woman …””

    “”Right. Not like, giving birth and stuff …””

    “”… Not that you’d be considered a woman.””

    “”… [But] all the crap that society makes you go through and stuff.””

    “”Yeah.””

    Kaufman returned to the task at hand, saying, “”Open. You don’t have much eyelids.””

    Outside, LaPerruque looked for the girl who was supposed to finish his makeup; she was missing.

    “”I’ve never even worn a dress before,”” he confessed, visibly nervous. “”It’s really weird. Never done the makeup and all that before. It’s a lot of work.””

    So was obtaining the costumes, according to most of the male performers. Procuring appropriate clothing meant borrowing from friends, finding a way to try on items in stores with women-only dressing rooms, and occasionally sewing from scratch.

    The finished product, Latham said, can be eerie.

    “”When I first put on the wig and the makeup a couple weeks ago when we were rehearsing, I looked in the mirror and I thought I looked like my older sister and it scared the hell out of me,”” he said, laughing.

    Shaun, an LGBTA principal member who wished to be identified only by his first name, couldn’t express how it felt to be in drag for the first time.

    “”I can’t put it into words right now,”” he said. “”Right now, what I’m thinking is, ‘I hope I look OK.'””

    When performers had been hurried behind the curtain and rehearsals had been finished or nixed due to lack of time, the floodgates finally opened and the audience, many of which had been waiting outside the doors already, entered the theater. A nearly full house roared for the MCs, who were members of the San Diego Kings Club, a semi-professional group of drag kings.

    The performers — UCSD students; the so-called “”Asian drag diva”” Black China; and Kings club performers Tommy Salami, Drake Bottoms, Pan T. Slickers, Al Pachuco and Johnny O. — challenged gender ideas against a background of pop music and careful choreography. The audience, for its part, seemed to love it, applauding and cheering at every turn.

    As the audience filed out after the show, the performers also filtered into the lobby to confer with friends and each other about the show.

    LaPerruque said he had “”a blast,”” and hopes to participate again next year in a bigger role.

    But others worried about their onstage mistakes.

    “”I fucked up so many times!”” LGBTA principal member Wes Fujimoto said.

    Eleanor Roosevelt College freshman and “”Divas in Denial”” usher Kara Desert consoled him: “”But you were so damn sexy, it just made up for it.””

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