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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Fit for a drag king

    The nature of one local drag show, its content, purpose and audience once fit only for a queen, has now evolved to accommodate a king – the drag king.

    Boys R Us, a drag king troupe, has been performing in Tucson for the past five years. Put away your preconceived notions: In contrast to most drag queen shows, here the women are men, some of the men are women, and a few of the men are still men – kind of.

    Confused? Don’t be. These shows not only feature women who dress up as men, but also performers of other genders, such as female burlesque dancers, drag queens and even break-dancers.

    One of the main performers is the daring, sexy Shannon, who walks through life normally as a waifish, short-haired blonde bartender.

    As Shannon leans against the bar at a hole-in-the-wall establishment in east Tucson, an onslaught of burly men signal her for more drinks. She is almost timid, with a stone-faced expression and tightly pursed lips. But when a voluptuous brunette prances up to the bar, Shannon’s cold and robotic nature melts in an instant, as she is taken with the new prospect. Shannon and the brunette begin flirting and giggling among all the men, who remain aloof.

    Shannon may attempt some shy flirtation with beautiful women, but facial hair and strategically placed stuffing in her pants let her transform into her gutsier alter ego – a boy named Holden Cox.

    Unlike Shannon, Holden Cox has the luxury of incessantly flirting with more women. His rock star-like stage presence dominates the local troupe. Although Cox is all over women, Shannon admitted, “”Holden really is dorkier than I am.””

    At the Boys R Us show, armed with a fake mullet and the tune of Eddie Money’s ’80s classic “”Take Me Home Tonight,”” Cox attempted to lure Dante, a mustached woman, backstage. The audience roared with laughter as Dante succumbed to the seduction.

    Although the term drag kings is used to describe Boys R Us, Dante prefers the tag “”gender performance troupe”” as a way to eliminate gender stereotypes. Dante himself is transgender, one of the more controversial segments of the LGBT community.

    Once technically a woman, his slow transition into a man has some lesbians and feminists outraged because they view the need to become a man as unnecessary.

    Like most prejudices, the prejudice toward transgender people comes from ignorance and fear, Dante said.

    Yet Dante combated the controversy with honesty: “”I just felt uncomfortable in my body, but it doesn’t change how I think and feel, it’s only the physical part that I was unhappy with.””

    The usage of gender labels is precisely what the Boys R Us troupe is defying.

    Gender labels demystified

    Dante said Boys R Us exists to promote awareness about gender labels.

    “”I don’t see gender on a general level,”” he said. “”People ask me ‘how do you identify?’ and I say, ‘Dante,’ “” he said. Rather than conforming to male or female, Dante says he’d rather just be himself.

    Dante hopes virgin audience members will find the exposure into the LGBT community educational. Since he has been a part of Boys R Us, Dante has slowly gone through the female-to-male transition. He hopes the audience witnessing his transition may leave the show with a little less bias and prejudice than before. They get to see that he is still the same person he always was, just physically different.

    One of the biological men of the troupe, Matt (aka Pierce Johnson), admits that the biggest compliment he gets is when people can’t figure out whether he is a man, or a woman pretending to be a man.

    “”I love deconstructing gender,”” said Johnson, who was extensively involved in the LGBT community in Tucson before joining Boys R Us. He said he loves how the troupe actually brings more awareness to the LGBT issues that exist today.

    The LGBT community is one that is facing oppression in this country as well as all around the world. Therefore, it is surprising for a smaller community like Tucson to have such support for Boys R Us shows. The increasing level of tolerance and understanding in this town is evidenced by their constant sold-out shows.

    Boys R Us has directly helped the Tucson community by holding a series of benefit shows for the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and Wingspan, a local LGBT community center. Yet Boys R Us isn’t out to serve its own interests – not all the benefit shows have been for big-name LGBT organizations. When a friend of the troupe found out she needed a hysterectomy due to endometriosis, the troupe held a benefit show for her surgery costs.

    Besides benefit shows, Boys R Us promotes awareness by way of plain entertainment. Members warn that the shows truly are a rollercoaster ride. There are peaks of sexually stimulating and hilarious acts alongside lows of serious political and social commentary, leaving viewers perplexed about whether they are horny or ready to protest. Skits range from slides of anti-immigration protests held over the past 100 years to burlesque dancers lighting nipple tassels on fire.

    The fundamental similarity between the struggles of immigrants and that of the LGBT community is riveting. Both groups are simply fighting for the right to work, live and love and the ability to exercise their fundamental rights in America.

    The group’s goals of pushing audience members to truly consider what their own sexuality means to them can only make an individual stronger. Actors portray everything from drag queens mourning the loss of their dildos to “”furries,”” i.e. rabbits pretending to engage in various sexual acts.

    These acts break preconceived notions and prejudices created from ignorance and fear. This can only prepare our generation to be more accepting and unified than ever before.

    In one act, disgust and anger toward a corporate-run news media is intelligently portrayed to R.E.M.’s “”The End of the World as We Know It”” and Green Day’s “”American Idiot.””

    In the end, even two brides locked in a three-way kiss did not get as much raucous hollering as the last act, which is truly the sign of our times, “”Dick in a Box.””

    The troupe “”puts out”” 15 to 20 shows a year while managing to never repeat the same acts. They are primarily held in venues that cater to the 21-and-over crowd.

    When they started five years ago in Tucson, the audience was mainly “”butch”” lesbians, yet within the last year or so, it has diversified to include gay and straight people, couples, fraternity boys, old and young.

    Kristen Rhoades, a 24-year-old account manager, said she has not been able to stop coming to shows since her first last year.

    “”There’s a freedom to be who you are here,”” she said. “”Sexual limitations don’t exist.”” And indeed they don’t – at least onstage at the Boys R Us show.

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