Gen­derqueer roy­alty

Anna The­matic on be­ing a trans drag per­former in Hal­i­fax.

The Coast - - THE CITY / OPINIONATED - BY JES­SICA DURLING

If you think of queer cul­ture, one of the first things to come to mind—for bet­ter or worse—is drag.

It’s a per­for­mance art that en­gages with and sub­verts gen­der norms, says lo­cal gen­derqueer drag per­former Anna The­matic.

“For me, drag has of­ten been a safer space in which to ex­plore my own gen­der iden­tity and ex­pres­sion,” The­matic says. “My drag per­sona is very much a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the fem­i­nin­ity I was afraid to ac­cess through­out most of my life, and a lot of my per­for­mances deal with the dif­fi­cul­ties of ques­tion­ing and com­ing out.”

Gen­derqueer falls out­side of the male or fe­male bi­nary. The­matic, who uses both “they/ them” and “she/her” pro­nouns, got into drag early in her own gen­derqueer dis­cov­ery dur­ing the 2015 Gen­der-Fuck Pride event in Hal­i­fax.

ematic emailed the event’s or­ga­niz­ers ask­ing if they were in­ter­ested in hav­ing a new per­former. At the time, she says, all she had planned was her first name and the idea she’d be in­cred­i­bly awk­ward and non-sex­u­al­ized. The or­ga­niz­ers wel­comed her on­board and she’s been hooked ever since.

Gen­der-Fuck Pride’s ac­cep­tance doesn’t mean drag is not with­out its fair share of trans­misog­yny, how­ever. Global fig­ures like Ru-Paul have used slurs against trans women and com­pared the dif­fer­ence to hav­ing one’s sex be misiden­ti­fied at birth and be­ing a drag queen as “about $25,000 and a good sur­geon.”

The­matic says a lot of the think­ing be­hind those com­ments can be chalked up to the per­cep­tion that drag is an art form solely for cis or gay peo­ple.

“A lot of drag queens seem to present this car­i­ca­ture of fem­i­nin­ity which is of­ten quite sex­u­al­ized and friv­o­lous,” she says. “And, of course, the in­sis­tence that drag queens are ‘just’ men in cos­tume not only pushes out trans per­form­ers, but feeds back into the pub­lic per­cep­tion that we are just ‘men try­ing to be women.’”

It’s im­pos­si­ble to do drag in this day-and-age with­out be­ing in­flu­enced by icons such as Ru-Paul, and the Hal­i­fax drag com­mu­nity is no ex­cep­tion. The­matic doesn’t con­sider her­self an ex­pert on the lo­cal com­mu­nityjust a mem­berbut she still thinks there’s a lot of la­tent trans­misog­yny that goes unchecked in the “new wave” of Hal­i­fax drag.

“I don’t want to go too much into it, but it def­i­nitely emerges in stuff like the preva­lence of trans masc drag kings—who are of­ten un­abashedly femme—and the rel­a­tive scarcity of trans femme per­form­ers of any kind,” she says .“Also, a lot of con­ver­sa­tions about or in­volv­ing hyper queens usu­ally de­scend em­bar­rass­ing ly into trans misog­y­nis­tic, ci s-s ex­ist realms with­out even re­al­iz­ing it.”

That sort of think­ing ig­nores how the ori­gins of drag are tied to trans women, with early his­tor­i­cal fig­ures like Mar­sha P. John­son and Sylvia Rivera—who were both be­hind the Stonewall riot that birthed the LGBTQ+ move­ment we know to­day.

“Drag is ac­tu­ally at its most pow­er­ful and sub­ver­sive when it’s trans women and trans­fem­i­nine peo­ple per­form­ing their own re­pressed fem­i­nin­ity on stage,” says The­matic, “or us­ing drag to mock the mas­culin­ity that was im­posed on us, which we’ve done for decades, if not cen­turies.”

JOI CARVERY-TAY­LOR

Anna The­matic at a drag show in fall 2017.

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