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The Do’s and Don’ts of Drag Show Etiquette

THE DOs

Do: Listen and Learn

Newcomers will be welcomed if they have an open mind and embrace the art of drag. As drag queen MJ Banks suggests, “When you start [engaging with drag] everyone will have something to say and teach you. Take what works for you and leave the rest. Do not count out anyone.”

Drag is for everyone. Everyone can contribute to the inclusive space. Drag challenges society’s expectations of traditional gender performance by heightened expressions of femininity, masculinity, and anything in between. Drag can mock identity by exaggerating it in order to entertain. In turn, drag is not impersonating a female identity, but is a hyper expression of femininity. Drag performance is filled with energy, so enjoy yourself!

It is as valid an entertainment art form as any other. Drag is a very accessible entertainment art within an intimate setting but is commonly disrespected and disregarded as “exotic” to most. As drag queen Amelia Bearhardt puts it, “[Newcomers] walk into this drag world full of life, color, texture, and sparkle and I don’t necessarily think many take it as serious as other performances because it seems so foreign.”

So before entering, individuals outside of the community must consider what their presence is contributing to the environment. Spaces as such are designed to welcome and promote inclusivity, therefore those engaging with the community must be committed to upholding those standards. If drag is not for you, that’s okay, but carry on respectfully and find a space or entertainment form that fits your taste more appropriately.

Do: Be Courteous When Asking for Pictures

Tipping rules can extend to taking pictures of drag performers before or after shows. If you do not have money, you can still get a picture, just be sure to introduce yourself. Approaching a drag performer for a photo and not asking for their name or saying thanks for the show may leave them feeling like a photo accessory. Express your appreciation for the show verbally or with a tip.

Most performers will be open to taking photos, but if you’re new to the drag community it’s better to just ask. Also, ask for the performer’s social media name so you can tag them. Connecting online and posting your pictures at the performance is a great way to promote the drag show

Do: Treat Drag Performers with Humanity

Drag performers are people under all the makeup and costume. They deserve to be treated with humanity as much as anyone else. The people performing drag should be acknowledged as individuals who created the art that is their drag identity. Drag performers are not to be handled roughly nor are they photo accessories. Speak to them with respect for their personhood, the art of drag and the space you are entering as a guest.

By respecting the performer’s space and refraining from walking in front of them, you are keeping the attention on the performer.

Don’t: Try to Compete

Keep the attention on the performers. The audience is there to watch the drag performers and drawing attention away from them is diminishing the experience for everyone.

By respecting the performer’s space and refraining from walking in front of them, you are keeping the attention on the performer.

Attempting to get up on stage is also regarded as highly disrespectful to the performer. It communicates that you are trying  to compete for the audience’s attention. Instead, relax and enjoy the show!

A drag show is an energetic and empowering scene, but do you know how to engage with drag respectfully? Drag Queens Amelia Bearhardt and MJ Banks spoke with us to create the Do’s and Don’ts of drag show etiquette. At its core “drag is a way to perform and express oneself.”

Do: Tip the Performers

Show your appreciation to the drag performers by tipping them, especially if you did not have to pay a cover to enter the venue. Bearhardt puts the importance of tipping into context by sharing, “It means a lot having someone give you a dollar that they worked for and earned. A dollar says thank you for your art, thank you for bringing drag here, I am entertained.” A dollar a performer is a good general rule, but of course the bigger the tip, the better.

In the case of tipping, be patient. Drag performers have a whole room to attend to and everyone may be demanding their attention. In the meantime, please do not throw money at performers, pull money from them, or tuck money into their attire without asking permission.

Do: Remain Present

Drag performers can spend hours and lots of effort perfecting their appearance and concept, so give them your attention for the few minutes they are in front of you. Keeping your phone away is a place to start, unless you are taking a video or picture.

Let the performers know you are enjoying the show by cheering them on. Drag performers can feel empowered by the encouragement and the confidence it brings. The whole experience is better for both parties if the audience is engaged. Don’t be shy, have fun and let them know you think they’re fabulous.

THE DONTs

Don’t: Assume Drag Performance is just Queens

Drag includes various identities that are not limited to drag queens. At a drag show, you could expect a spectrum of performances from drag queens, drag kings, bio queens, Misters, non-binary performers or gender fluid performers.

Drag queens are males presenting as women and drag kings are females presenting as males. Misters and bio queens are performers who present within their gender identity but with a hyper artistic performance. Non-binary performers and gender fluid performers alike do not perform drag within a gender binary.

Don’t: Misconceive Drag as Being Overtly Sexual

Drag is commonly misconceived as being very sexual. MJ Banks points out that “drag is a way to perform and express oneself and on most levels is not sexual.” Some songs and performances are sexual, but this is not to say that every performer has the preference of being sexual during the show.

There are some drag performers that enjoy being tipped in erotic places and others who do not want to be touched at all. Ask for permission. In the case of Amelia Bearhardt, she is not a sexual drag queen and does not want to be touched. Assumptions should not be made regarding how a performer is wanting to be tipped or touched because the preference varies among drag performers.

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