Crimson Kitty is not here to play games. After we featured this debonaire bio-queen as part of our ongoing In Progress 52 series, something rather unexpected happened: she found herself the target of a whole lot of hate, with bio queens in general getting snubbed by RuPaul herself.
Bio queens, cisgender women who exaggerate their own femininity in a deeply stylized performance influenced by the history of drag, have always been fringe figures within the LGBTQ world. While many would support the idea of gendered tropes (hyper-exaggerated or otherwise) being accessible to people of all different sizes, shapes, and colors, others point to the history of oppression most expressly experienced by gender-transgressing men to suggest that there are limits to inclusivity. That is to say: gay men invented drag, and many think that it is only gay men who should be performing as such. For example, here's one drag fan's thoughts from Reddit: "I don't think it's fair for them to compete in competitions and things alongside drag queens. It's hard to be a drag queen. From covering up hair, to tucking, to painting, to being able to accept yourself and find your identity. Faux queens don't have to do that ... When I go to a show, I don't want to see a girl wearing make-up, that's boring. I want to see a man who's made up a character and put a lot of work into his act."
"I have no problem with it, but in all honesty I don't think it's drag. A fierce performer maybe, but there's no need for these endless stupid labels," added another in the same thread.
How this cultural history manifested for Crimson Kitty was certainly nuanced, but what felt especially strange was that this newfound hatred was coming from within the gay community. She received some measured arguments, but mostly it's been vitriol, and even death threats. It seems that the story of a biological woman succeeding in an area traditionally dominated by gay men was experienced as threatening to some. So, she was quickly innundated with trolls. While Crimson had always found herself skirting controversy, it was certainly shocking to see the amount of venom being spewed from a new faction of men that had been pretty quiet so far.
"Here's the thing," she told me over coffee. "Since the article came out people are being much more upfront about their opinion because I'm getting press and they're not. There's jealousy! Of course they felt that way before, and I would hear it later from friends. It happens in Brooklyn, of all places!"
But, more recently, something has changed: "[The hate has] been a very strong reaction from the gay community. And only from the gay community. Men."
"They're like, 'How dare you enter our domain? Of gayness! Oh my god! It's sacred, and nobody can even enter, you have to have the secret password.' But us Ladyqueens, we've gotten through the backdoor and now we're an army. It's a Ladyqueen revolution!"
Luckily for Crimson, it was easy to brush off the trolls. "I didn't feel unsafe. These are mostly children that don't have real jobs. They live at home with their families. What're they going to do to me? Tweet me to death? I'm not afraid. They don't have power over me."
But the tone of these rejoinders certainly changed when shortly after Crimson was getting a lot of press, RuPaul herself tweeted a response to a fan asking about the future of Ladyqueens on her show:
"It's unfortunate that RuPaul's comment, which was probably just a quick, flippant response actually effects an entire group of people, inside of an already established culture, which many feel needs to be protected," said Crimson.
And Miss Kitty found herself the target for a lot of the fallout from the tweet: "It was a nonstop battle for three days. I've never been on Facebook more ... People were just telling me to go die. They said I would never be a drag queen. They don't know me! This is the first they've ever seen of me. They told me to stop doing what I'm doing. It's ridiculous! It's ridiculous that a fandom has gotten to that level that they'd tell someone to go and die ... It's sad that they feel so threatened that they have to lash out. If you talk this way to someone you don't know how are you talking to your mother?!"
"My drag is inherently a political statement. Because I'm working against the norm. It's already political because I'm fighting for inclusion ... At the end of the day, if somebody is entertaining you, what does it matter what's between their legs? That's what I don't get."
"People feel so protective of drag because they've already been so marginalized. But I'm not taking anything away from anyone," Crimson concluded strongly.
Reggi Regina, Crimson's drag king partner, had some thoughts on the issue as well: "It's childish. What have these bio queens done exactly? How has someone else's choice to take the stage affected you? Did you lose gigs because of this Queen? Do they look better than you? Bio queens are no different from any other performer ... Every human being deserves to do what they please as long as it doesn't hurt another being. Why is that so hard? ... Drag is changing everyday, and it's about time we stop seeing different as other, because we all lead complicated lives that demand a creative outlet. Share that creativity, don't shun it."
As a drag king, has Reggi ever experienced this kind of hatred? "No, in fact sometimes I feel safer as a King. This is where things get complicated. You could even say, portraying masculinity protects me from the anger and ignorance in our society."
Luckily, none of this has stopped Crimson from making moves; it hasn't made her any less determined to keep doing what she loves. "We've just launched a Female Drag Queen Directory ... I'll also be organizing a Ladyqueen meetup at DragCon. I want to see my community build."
"Sometimes we get so marginalized that we don't like to associate with other Ladyqueens. There's shade. I'm trying to break down that wall."