Though typically unknown to students, both Kingston and Queen’s have vibrant, thriving drag communities. This was made obvious this past Sunday night at Walk! And! Talk!, a drag panel organized by the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society’s (ASUS) Social Justice Committee as part of Voices, a multimedia art exhibit that works to elevate marginalized voices.
As part of the exhibit, four local drag queens were invited to create exemplary drag outfits to be put on display. The diverse looks created by the queens were meant to demonstrate the diversity of drag personas at Queen’s. These outfits were shown off at Walk! And! Talk! on March 4, and allowed for each of the queens on the panel to bring an aspect of the drag experience to life through their unique designs and personas.
The history of drag in Kingston was well-represented on Sunday night, particularly in the presentation of an outfit designed by Tyffanie Morgan. Ms. Tyffanie has been a part of the Kingston drag community for many years, a fact the three younger queens on the panel jokingly wouldn’t let her forget. Her outfit featured a handmade caftan dress with a pattern she designed to represent the history of drag in Kingston.
One aspect of the design was a bent stiletto heel representing a stiletto worn by Greg Loftus, also known as Crystal Cage, an icon of Kingston’s drag community in the 1990s.
According to Ms. Tyffanie, Loftus faced stigma and discrimination head-on at a time when drag was largely considered a subversive act. Loftus was HIV-positive and worked tirelessly as an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness. Over the course of his involvement with the drag community, he frequently visited high schools and spoke about his experiences. Sadly, Loftus passed away as a result of his illness, but remained a beloved and influential figure in the Kingston drag community.
This was only one of the many experiences highlighted during the panel and outfit presentation as each of the queens shared their unique experiences in drag to the Kingston audience.
Lilith Cain, one of the panel members, discussed her subversion to her religious upbringing that she portrayed through her name choice. Lilith, the inspiration for the first part of her name, was the first wife of Adam who was cast out of the garden of Eden. Making up the second half of her chosen name, the name Cain originates from the story of Cain and Abel depicting the first murder in Bible, which Lilith thought was “kind of badass” and fitting for her gothic persona.
Lilith Cain wasn’t the only queen to draw on personal experience for her look. The outfit worn by Fenny-Jean Rockefeller represented something her friend said to her when she started drag: “Be careful, drag attracts damaged people.”
Although she doesn’t agree with her friend’s statement, Rockefeller created her look in response to it, incorporating bandages into her outfit to portray this idea of damaged people. Her look was created to show that drag “is a story of strength and wearing that damage not as a sign of weakness but as a battle wound. A symbol of strength to keep pushing forward …”
While the other queens drew from personal and historical inspiration, panelist Mimi Osa chose to make a broader statement with her design. Osa’s outfit represented a rebellious aspect of drag. Her outfit featured a fishnet dress with glittery letters spelling out the acronym IDGAF. Part of Mimi’s choice was to match her outfit with the title of a song by Dua Lipa she lip-synced to later in the event, while also acting as a comment on what she sees as a highly conservative culture at Queen’s.
Regarding attitudes toward drag at Queen’s, the queens on Sunday’s panel offered a variety of perspectives. Cain explained her view of Kingston’s drag community as a tight, supportive family, telling The Journal, “drag has always been like a second family to me. Sometimes we fight and disagree, but they’re family”.
Rockefeller voiced her belief that drag at Queen’s is “underappreciated … We have a solid group of locals who come to see us, but in terms of Queen’s acceptance of drag as an art form, it’s rather lacking. We’ve done shows for students at places like The Underground and those have proven to be greatly appreciated by those who come. So I see the potential for drag at Queen’s.” Rockefeller also noted Sunday’s panel was a step in the right direction towards the acceptance and recognition of drag at Queen’s.
Ms. Tyffanie stressed “[t]he drag community of Queen’s is young, vibrant, talented, competitive, and dedicated. It consists of many new and inspiring drag queens as well as a very captived and supportive audience. Having been around awhile, I’ve seen the progression of drag within the Queen’s community.”
She added by saying, “when I started drag in my undergraduate years, I had a supportive Kingston community-at-large. Years later, Queen’s has been a very supportive community thanks to many queer/LGBT organizations and allies which support the art of drag … I’m very confident the wellspring of drag here at Queen’s is to stay.”
The Queen’s and Kingston drag community demonstrated its rich history and current vibrancy on Sunday night. We can all confidently look forward to watching it continue to evolve and flourish.
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