A Drag Queen’s Quick Guide to Not Being a Dummy at the Drag Show

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by Sydni Hamption
(they/them, she/her) @TheSydniHampton 

There’s a time and a place for having fun. That time and that place is when the overture starts at your local drag bar. There’s music, dancing lights and probably a drag queen performing something from the Dua Lipa catalog of certified BOPS. It’s easy to get lost in it all. BUT WAIT – You have a sudden urge to get on stage with the performer during their number? You’ve had three too many and you’ve gone full Aunt Stacey at the Florida Georgia Line concert? Now you’re being escorted out of the club, the DJ is making fun of you on the mic and you can’t find your GBF who brought you here?

Don’t worry, babes, that won’t happen to you. I will guide you through how to behave and keep your wits at The Drag Show. We all like to unwind and have a good time but there are inappropriate ways of participating as an audience member at a show like this. I’ll encourage you to get loosey without getting too goosey.

First, let’s talk about what we DO want to see at a drag show, from the performer’s perspective.

  1. A drink in your hand. There’s an old adage that goes, “the more you drink, the prettier we look,” and this is a fact. If you drink enough, I’ll actually BE Shania Twain on stage and we’ll both be better for it. Additionally, this means you’ve been supporting the bar, and that means our bartenders are happy and those bartenders are our best friends.

2. Hootin’ and Hollerin’. The sound of an audience living for you and your gig sounds an awful lot like clapping, the sound of a few loud whistles and a couple “ICON!” “LEGEND!” “STAR!” So if you’re really living for it, please make it known. Even if you’re not, clap. Everyone who gets on stage has a lot of bravery to do so, and your applause tells them they belong there, or at least fuels their delusion that they do.

3. Cash-ola. Cointhotas. BILLS, baby. There’s few hobbies more expensive than drag. Running a non profit illegal big cat sanctuary, collecting Franklin Mint and a coke habit. And some of these girls do both. So for the sake of my drag and my expansive Franklin Mint collection, if you see me with a wig on, assume I’m begging for money. 

4. You having a damn good time! This can look like a lot of things. Shouting the lyrics to “Misery Business” while Gilda Wabbit does a Lara Croft-ian dodge roll or throwing money on the stage in awe of Diana Rae and Uhstel H Valentine kicking, splitting and buckin’ the HOUSE DOWN to a Megan Thee Stallion medley. It can look like you taking photos and videos and posting them on your socials and tagging the performers.

Ultimately, drag shows are for you to be ENTERTAINED while the people performing for you are getting APPRECIATED for the work and time they put in to present it all to you. Now, for the things we DO NOT want to see…I’d like to point out that all of these behaviors I’ve seen from both sober folks and drunk folks. A drag show is a great place to see gender expression, learn a little about queer folks in your community, have a gay ol’ time and be yourself. It’s all achievable by following my guidelines above, I do it every weekend that I’m out watching the show if I’m not in it, and I’m doing it with a belly full of Raspberry White Claws and Saltwater Woody’s Rum. I believe in you!

  1. Never, under ANY circumstance, get on the stage unless expressly asked to do so by the performer. There’s many reasons for this. With my wigs, for example, I have a 30-40 degree cone of vision at times. So if you come up just beyond my peripherals, you risk bodily harm if I am dancing around on stage and you sneak up on me. Some drag queens will do kicks and jump splits. They’re best seen from your seat, not a stiletto in your eye. So for your safety, don’t. Also, the performers have spent literally anywhere from $100 to $2000+ to present to you a look and they only have 3-5 minutes to show you the look and give you a performance. You being up there uninvited only takes away from the performance and that is selfish. You are not the star of the show. No one paid a cover to see you, diva. Siddown. 

2. Please, do not put your money in your mouth when tipping the performers. For obvious reasons. Please visit CDC.gov if you have additional questions about why this is literally so stupid.

3. Don’t occupy the space where the line forms to tip. Every venue where there are drag shows there will be tip lines. Or convenient places to tip performers. The way I see it, if you are in that line, you better have money and it better be for me.

4. Never touch my hair. On or off stage. Never touch my hair. For one thing, it probably costs more than your entire outfit. Secondly, I said don’t. Matter of fact, don’t touch performers in general. Rowdy boys who’ve never been to a drag show do not get a pass. There’s no reason to touch anyone without consent.

5. Don’t assume a performer is a man or a woman. There are drag queens who were assigned female at birth. There are drag queens who are cis-gender men. There’s drag queens that are trans-women. There’s non-binary performers. What I’m getting at, don’t make assumptions. The best way to remedy this is to just call us beautiful.
Example: Instead of, “HE’S so beautiful” try “Beautiful, you are so great and stunning. I love your wig! Here’s a dollar.”
See? Easy!

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