This is the seventh installment in an ongoing series that explores drag culture and the nightlife scene in Brooklyn, N.Y. Over the past several years, following the large-scale exodus of artists across the East River and into northern Brooklyn, those engaged in drag culture in this outer borough have created a new, queer world entirely their own. Accompanied by a larger movement to understand drag culture outside of the pageant circuit, many individuals engaged in the drag community in this borough approach drag culture through a nontraditional lens of "alternative" drag or performance art, enabled largely by the malleable and queer nature of this part of New York. Visit HuffPost Gay Voices regularly to learn not only about the individuals involved in Brooklyn's drag community, but more about the culture of the community itself.
The Huffington Post: How did you get your start in the drag world?
Babes Trust: I started when I was 16 -- there was an old drag club in Manchester, England, that was just across the street from the New Union public house on the infamous "Gay Village." It had this amazing sunken dance floor.
I met the resident drag queen there as I was searching for a job. She said she couldn't afford to pay me, but in return for me handing out flyers for her nightly shows she would transform me into a drag queen. Which she did -- to post flyers for her show! Me in a full sequin gown 16 years old posting flyers for a drag show! It was such good fun and that was my first brush with drag.
It's now a Chinese restaurant.
How would you characterize the kind of drag that you do?
Punk. It's hard to classify. I kind of dislike the word "drag," I'm more of a bad tranny. My linage is that of Divine, so an agitator. I try to put my looks and shows together that attack the status quo, the nuclear family and strict gender roles.
Some transgender people are critical of drag performers using the word "tranny." What are your thoughts about it?
First of all, I can only tell you what I've experienced. I have at some points in my life identified as transgender. I lived in a trans anarchist house in London for three years, my closest friend is transexual and sometimes uses the word to describe herself and comrades.
I have issues around this wider idea of community; such as the gay "community," the trans "community" -- we are not a generalized generic community or binary. Although we share some basic values, we are many different communities with varying values, speech, meanings, codes and languages.
Tranny means different things to different people. Do I know some people who feel more comfortable with explaining their gender and sexuality as "tranny"? Yes. Is that okay?
By one "community" effectively silencing and oppressing another to "not say" certain words or be so untrusting of people that you believe that everything comes from a place of violence, is sad.
If someone identifies as "tranny," the people who attack the term as offensive are oppressing the people who have a valid claim over the term.
Do I think the term should be banded around by popular media? No. Perhaps it's an idea of who has a valid claim to it. Being a cross dresser, a drag queen, a queer, a faggot, a tranny -- a non-binary person and living in and experiencing my drag community that explores these ideas of non-binary gender and sex, alienness and fluidity I would say gives validity to the term and deserves to be celebrated. Not all of us live in such a defined state of being.
How does Brooklyn as a community shape and construct drag culture?
Well, the Bushwig/Brooklyn community is very new and embryonic. Yes -- some queens right now are getting some press. However, it's all very geared towards this idea of being "the next big thing," which I find rather boring. I keep thinking we need some kind of radical community guidelines, to form a communal space or, like Warhol, create a Factory. Make our own culture, rather than join one. I think if this happens it would definitely shape drag culture in a more direct way. Right now, however, I feel we just feed the mainstream and RuPaul's drag farm.
(The interview with Babes Trust continues after the slideshow.)
Describe the drag scene and community in Brooklyn -- how is it different from drag culture elsewhere?
In Brooklyn it is more raw, more experimental and more queer. It is similar to other cities like London and Berlin. However, I think in NYC there is more of a crossing of "scenes." For example, there is a "queer" drag scene, although small, in Berlin, but those queens would never really cross paths or play at the same places with the "fish." I think that this happens more in NYC due to economics and the city's readiness to consume.
Why did you decide to co-found Bushwig?
After moving here from London I was fully aware and inspired by the Wigstock festival. After doing some shows over here with what is now know as "The House Of Bushwig" I realized that there were so many drag queens, more than any other place I had encountered. I thought it would be amazing to create a community festival that could showcase all of these amazing creatures and to create a meeting point for them all. Also, the wider goals were to give everyone a larger audience to showcase... so yes we do want it to be huge.
Where can you be found throughout the week?
I work a lot bartending so it's hard for me to get in drags after an 11-hour shift. But you can find me in a dress at HappyFun Hideaway in Bushwick on Friday nights.
I'll also be doing a New Years Eve Dance & Drag Party at Secret Project Robot! with my sisters Macy Rodman and SCHWARZ.
I'm also part of a new band called BOTTOMS, which includes myself on programming, Micheal Promistat on drums and the performance artist Jake Dibeler on vox.
I should also mention my new magazine that we just successfully launched in Amsterdam called SISTERS that documents the more left of field and one-time drags! We launch in NYC in February -- so look out for that.
...or come find me at Bushwig next year. Life is drag.
Any parting words?
"Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!"
The next installment of this series will take a look back at the past two Bushwig festivals. Missed the previously featured drag performers in this series? Check out the slideshow below.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/02/scarlet-envy-drag-queen_n_4168361.html#slide=3056874" target="_blank">"The Brooklyn queer scene is a conglomeration of love and energy that is executed beautifully. It's so much more than drag queens lip-sycing; it's a cultural shift in attention to the outskirts of Manhattan... Brooklyn has always done whatever the hell it wants." -Scarlet Envy, Host Of "Scarlet Fever" at This N' That</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/09/merrie-cherry-brooklyn-drag-queen_n_4234810.html" target="_blank">"That is the evolution of drag: Do you and hope they love it... Be you and forget the rest. If I lived my life how my family and society told me how I should, I would be a closeted, nine to fiver, sitting in a white office." -Merrie Cherry, Host of "DRAGnet" at Metropolitan Bar.</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/16/untitled-queen-brooklyn-drag_n_4268300.html" target="_blank">"Brooklyn, particularly, now happens to be a hotbed for so many types of creative individuals and those hungry to both experience and create culture. In this need there are a lot of opportunities for people to insert themselves in the conversation, and in many cases create a sense of family and long-lasting friendship with all of those involved." -Untitled Queen, Host of "Bottoms Up" at Sugarland Nightclub</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/23/amber-alert-brooklyn-drag_n_4312326.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices" target="_blank">"The queens in Brooklyn don't like to repeat numbers or looks, and we all go to see one another's shows, so there's a lot of incentive to be innovative... I would really hope that the inclusivity of the Brooklyn drag scene represents the future of drag, because people of all genders and body types deserve to be queens if they want to be." -Amber Alert, Drag Artist and Performer</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/01/cher-noble-brooklyn-drag_n_4352151.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices" target="_blank">"We ignore all the rules. We say yes when someone else says no. This provides everyone in Brooklyn with a stage they can call their own; they don't have to worry about their performance being good or bad, they just have to worry about their performance being their own. We are shaping and constructing drag by thinking outside of the typical, sequined box." -Cher Noble, Drag Artist and Performer</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/08/horrorchata-brooklyn-drag_n_4391886.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices" target="_blank">"Never in a thousand years would I have thought I'd be part of a huge drag movement. We are the future." -Horrorchata, Bushwig Co-Founder and Host Of "Be Cute" at One Last Shag</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/15/babes-trust-brooklyn-drag_n_4434204.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices" target="_blank">"I keep thinking we need some kind of radical community guidelines, to form a communal space or, like Warhol, create a Factory. Make our own culture, rather than join one. I think if this happens it would definitely shape drag culture in a more direct way." -Babes Trust, Bushwig Co-Founder</a>
Bushwig Drag Festival
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/22/bushwig-drag-festival_n_4474490.html#slide=3257280" target="_blank">"Bushwig is an event that not only acknowledges and honors its predecessor, Wigstock, but also forges new ground with the electric energy of a community living in Brooklyn and beyond... [it] represents what is wild about drag, what is interesting about north Brooklyn, and hopefully new practices in community culture, in and out of a drag context." -Untitled Queen and Trey LaTrash</a>
K.James & Pussy Diet
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/28/brooklyn-drag-kings_n_4499490.html?ir=Gay+Voices" target="_blank">"I think drag culture in Brooklyn is really eclectic and, in a lot of ways, Brooklyn is revising what drag means for a new generation. Sometimes that means being really political: challenging sexism/racism/classism/ableism or other systems of oppression. Sometimes that means moving away from pageant notions of drag or from ideas about imitation or impersonation in favor of gender fucking. Sometimes, especially for us, it means really tight choreography and just a celebration of dapper queer bodies -- one that is both a commentary on definitions of masculinity and an important challenge to the idea of female masculinity as undesirable." -K.James, Drag King and Performer</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/04/lady-simon-drag_n_4525012.html" target="_blank">"I think Brooklyn is really, or at least it should be, pushing drag forward. We should be at the forefront of what's next, and I think for the most part we are -- always striving for something new and different, bigger and better. I mean, come on! It's New York City, its 2014 -- lets not be basic ladies! Keep an eye on Brooklyn, because we're coming for the world. But I guess since it's Brooklyn you should probably keep the other eye on your purse." --Lady Simon, Drag Artist and Performer </a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/12/hamm-samwich-brooklyn_n_4557336.html" target="_blank">"I think the essence of drag is saying no. Your body says, 'You’re a man,' and you say, 'No.' Your head says, 'You’re going to go bald now,' and you say, 'No.' Society says, 'Who do you think you are, faggot? Go get AIDS and die,' and you say, 'No, fuck you -- for the next five minutes I AM Beyonce and I OWN society.' To the command that we all be more pious and more polite and more serious and more respectful, the drag response is to say, 'No.' Because we’ve seen your piety, and we’re not impressed. Your piety is just more drag." --Hamm Samwich, Drag Artist and Performer</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/18/crimson-kitty-drag-queen_n_4610808.html" target="_blank">"My hope is that [our Drag Collective 'Switch and Play' will] bring in a whole new generation of drag performers in a nurturing and growing environment. Eventually I would like to set up a 'dragucation' program that will help aspiring performers harness their inner drag and set forth to inspire future generations to come!' --Crimson Kitty, Drag Artist and Performer</a>
Chris of Hur
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/26/chris-of-hur-brooklyn_n_4660802.html" target="_blank">"When I look around I see so many artistic descendants of Lou Reed, Claude Cahun, Lucas Samaras, Jayne County, The Divine David, Jack Smith, The Cockettes, Miss Guy, and countless other legendary gender pushers. What I think is coming through the most in Brooklyn drag culture from the overall arc of drag history is the desire to pull apart, rearrange, experiment and distort ideas of gender. It’s like with painting, once we achieved realism as far as it could go (and still be interesting) we started playing with form and application." --Chris of Hur, Drag Artist and Performer</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/02/goldie-peacock-brooklyn_n_4697397.html" target="_blank">"Gender is a complex animal, part nature, part nurture and part mystery. If more people allowed themselves to play around with what they thought the acceptable range of personal expression to be (in terms of identity, attire, creativity), we would all have more more self-love and compassion for everyone... Playing around with gender -- this thing we’ve been falsely taught is fixed, inherent and reliant on binaries -- is one of the keys to liberation." --Goldie Peacock, Drag King and Performer</a>
Alotta Stuff Live Auction
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/09/alotts-stuff-live-auction_n_4732800.html" target="_blank">"Alotta Stuff is a drag, well, dragg-ier version of 'Antique Roadshow'/Black Friday/Neighborhood Brooklyn Stoop Sale/Aladdin's cave. Inside the comforts of an old standard gay dive bar in Brooklyn, you can uncover some hidden jewels of sequin monstrosities while sharing a drink with a pal or some cute boys/girls. Instead of a blue genie, you get two larger-than-life drag queens, Alotta McGriddles and Thorgy Thor [pictured], as your spirit guides. It's all chill and cute until your best friend tries to outbid you on that silk Picasso-inspired '90s jacket that you know looks better on you." -Untitled Queen, Drag Artist and Performer</a>
Brooklyn Nightlife Awards
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/16/brooklyn-nightlife-awards_n_4790320.html" target="_blank">"Brooklyn, as far as nightlife goes, has always represented a sort of counter culture to the already eccentric NYC nightlife scene. When I first learned of all the annual events dedicated to awarding nightlife greats, there was definitely a void of recognition that came with being from the Brooklyn scene... BK artists take pride in just how free their minds are permitted to be while on stage, despite what they may walk away with at the end of the night, simply because NO ONE will tell them 'no, that doesn't work' -- ever. There's a sense of freedom and rebellion here, even within a community already considered so far left. There have been many competitions and pageants, but nothing in my time here this major!" -Mocha Lite, 2013 Drag Queen of the Year</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/23/manifestany-squirtz-brooklyn_n_4824250.html" target="_blank">"All I can say is it's a new era of drag and performance and the Brooklyn scene is coming in like a bunch of game changers. Manifesting art and trash as one, beauty with poor taste, and mixing the gender binary black and white with a technicolor spectrum that is unlike anything I've ever seen." -Manifestany Squirtz, Brooklyn Drag Artist and Performer</a>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/01/charmin-ultra-brooklyn_n_4867719.html#slide=3475939" target="_blank">"[Brooklyn is] a playground. The fastest spinning tire swing of all. It is indeed a community, of ruthless, glamorous, beautiful artists celebrating the sheer fact that everyone survived last night. It's a wild roller coaster. I would not get back on for a regular ride, but man am I glad I got to go for a spin. It's like summer camp -- you form a bond with the people around you, all who have chosen to put themselves into the environment. No resume needed to be a part of this business, just a drive to create -- the rest is in the pudding." --Charmin Ultra, Brooklyn Drag Artist and Performer</a>