Beyond male and female
|DRAG AS ART. Upset about the way drag kings were treated in Vancouver, Devin and a friend started their own troupe.(Image by Wendy D)||
story by Diane Claveau /
Aug 05 2004
Drag King devin’s favourite persona is Justin Timberlake. “He’s an amazing dancer,” Devin explains. “I love his music and I love doing his stuff. For me it’s very sensual.”
Devin’s blue eyes sparkle mischievously. “Performing is sexual because it’s like a window. I can show people things they don’t usually see.
“I love to perform,” Devin adds. “Drag is art for me.”
The natural redhead founded Kings of Vancouver about a year ago. Now, Devin not only performs with the troupe but also uses it to teach workshops. Being in the spotlight is a tool, Devin notes. “I use it to open people’s eyes. It’s gender play. I use it to show people there’s not just female and male anymore.”
Devin’s workshops focus on everything from applying facial hair, to adjusting facial expressions, to teaching people how to move and stand in gender-based ways. The goal: helping people get by in a world intent on labels.
“I can use my drag performance to educate other people or just have a good time and make people smile,” Devin says. “The workshops are a major part of it for me because they’re an outlet where I can actually teach people.
“When I got into it, it was about being sexual and being in the spotlight,” Devin continues. “Now Kings of Vancouver is about introducing and teaching other people about drag and getting it out into the more mainstream. It’s risqué and new and hot and it’s just catching on now. I’m trying to change it up.”
Devin and a friend started the drag king troupe because they were infinitely irritated and let down by the then-existing arrangement at drag shows. Drag kings were not being treated equally or taken seriously. “The drag queens were getting paid but the kings weren’t,” Devin remembers. “I mentioned to some of the other drag kings that I was really frustrated about this. I wanted to do shows.” The result: they created their own space.
It worked. The increase in people’s awareness of drag kings in the past year has been noticeable, says Devin. “Now we’re getting paid. That’s a huge step forward. I’ve been fighting a long time for this. I quit my job to do KOV full time. I’ve worked hard. This year we’re getting more calls to perform for money. Everybody’s paying us! And people want bigger performances.
“I’ve been a drag king for four years. It took one year to get this far, and now I’m a professional drag king and I get paid for it.”
Engagingly cocky and confident, Devin recently joined the newly re-opened Celebrities staff to host its Friday night parties. “I get paid to walk around as a drag king and mingle. It’s awesome.”
Devin identifies as neither male nor female, preferring the term “gender fluid.” The transition from one gender to the other began several years ago. “I’m not transitioning completely. I’m happy where I am now. I don’t want to become a dad, I do want to become a mom and it took a long time to come to that place and be okay with that. This is not a phase, this is who I am.”
Devin says coming out to the family at age 17 was almost a non-event. “‘Hey mom,’ I said, ‘I like girls’—and she said, ‘Okay,’ and, ‘so?’ and she continued washing the dishes. Then I came out and said ‘I’m transgendered.’ Mom said, ‘Okay, what’s that?’”
After Devin explained the concept of gender fluidity, the family was still accepting. “I think my dad cried but he didn’t show me. I think that’s because his little girl wasn’t his little girl anymore—and now he calls me Devin sometimes. I’ve been really lucky to have a family who supports me.”
The rest of the world is slower. “I was going as a girl to work because it was easier. When you’re trying to pass [as male] and somebody calls you ‘she,’ it hurts so much.”
For the most part Devin tells people: “It’s okay that you said it [she] to me because I’m able to teach you—but it’s not okay for the next person who isn’t and who’s been crushed by it.”
“I’m a really strong person. I’m not afraid. I know that my gender is always going to be fluid and some days I look like a girl and I feel like a girl and my energy’s all about being a girl—and that’s what I am in that moment and no one can tell me that I’m not. And when I’m boy I feel like I’m a boy and I am a boy and that’s who I am and no one can tell me otherwise. It’s on the days that you’re unsure, that’s when it’s scary.”
Kings Of Vancouver.