From all-age drag shows to alternative drag shows, drag shows centered around kings to drag shows in non-queer spaces, the drag community in Denver continues to push boundaries of what drag is supposed to look like and who it is for. Performers across town are making spaces where people are able to display and appreciate the beauty of queerness while perhaps challenging a gender norm or two in the process.
In March, I was given the opportunity to begin the process of co-producing and co-hosting a show alongside a dear friend of mine, Pax (aka the Transwitch). Both of us, as new performers and regular drag show attendees whose trans identities often felt dismissed, were interested in putting together a show that not only acts as a safe space for those who are trans and nonbinary, but gives individuals in our community a platform that is built by and for people like us.
Though it may come to a surprise to some, it is unfortunately expected as a trans person to feel out-of-place at a drag show and in many queer spaces in general.
It is all-too-common for a drag queen to claim to be a “real woman” while simultaneously making a joke about being a “man in dress,” implying trans people can put on and take off their identities like clothing.
Or maybe it is the Jack-and-Jill toast that in the end reveals Jill has a “c*ck” and her “real name is Randy” that feeds into the idea that trans women are deceiving our partners, further invalidating our identities.
The typical banter that is heard at a drag show perpetuates dangerous narratives that are already widely believed of trans people. While at the time, these jokes are intended to be harmless, they begin to feel much more dangerous when your everyday realities already include being called your deadname, getting asked if you’re pre- or post-op, or having someone insist your womanhood is not real.
But it’s not only trans audience members who are looking for a place where their identities are respected from those within the queer community. I have witnessed countless performers misgendered due to the assumption that all drag performers are performing as ‘drag queens,’ further erasing drag kings, trans men, and nonbinary performers.
Ironically enough for being such experts in exploring and performing gender, it can be just as difficult to find a seat at the table (or more literally, a stage to perform on) as a trans drag performer. I’ve been performing for just under a year now, and I still find myself feeling pressure to make my gender identity the subject of most of my performances, something I cannot imagine cisgender drag performers feel pressure to do.
T4T was created with the hope of giving Denver’s trans and nonbinary community a stage and space that we can call our own. Each month, a new cast of all trans and nonbinary performers brings such a variety of art to the stage at Gladys: The Nosy Neighbor. From live singing to burlesque to poetry readings, you’ll quickly learn that T4T is not simply a drag show, but a celebration and exploration of what it means to be trans and nonbinary.
I will gladly admit that I absolutely had no clue what I was getting myself into. The responsibility of producing and hosting is no small feat, and one I naively thought would come naturally. The added pressure to put on a seamless production alongside the desire to perfect one’s look and numbers is relieved through the incredible support from those who attend each month and the sense of community with other trans and nonbinary people.
Specifically, the safety felt backstage among other trans and nonbinary performers in the dressing rooms, not having to wonder if your body is being looked at or scrutinized in any sort of way.
Knowing that there still may be dysphoria or dysmorphia in expressing yourself through drag, but that there is solace to be had in knowing that the people around you understand, is extremely powerful. Having the opportunity to be a part of a show where I get to work with only trans and nonbinary folks, that centers only trans and nonbinary folks, and also brings trans and nonbinary folks together, is incredibly humbling.
Drag has been and always will be about bending the rules of gender and expression. And if drag is about exploring gender, challenging the comventional norms, and having autonomy over how we express ourselves, who better to show you than a trans person?
The next T4T is on September 7 at 10:30 p.m. at Gladys: The Nosy Neighbor. Each month, you can find DJ Dutch Confetti playing tracks and a photographer from Tits, Tucks, & Genderfucks in the audience snapping photos. With the help of the community through door and raffle prize donations over the last six months, T4T has raised over $2,500 for local trans organizations and individuals. Prizes have been sponsored from gc2b, Awakening Boutique, Paul Salas Hair Salon, City O’ City, and more.
Photo by Julian Colas