Drag in Vancouver: Commercial Drag
Ru Paul’s Drag Race, the now mega hit TV series that first aired in 2009, has brought the drag scene to the mainstream media. Because of this Drag is reaching a wider audience and hopefully leading to more knowledge and understanding of queer culture and communities.
But I don’t want us to forget where drag came from and its importance to the queer community. The goal with this article is not to get too preachy or too political (yes, I know everything queer is political) but it is important to remember that drag was a response to the oppression of gays and turned into an act of resistance to this oppression. So if you’re a fan of Ru Paul’s Drag race get out into your local community and support the performers in your city! Vancouver has a lot to offer in drag.
If you’re interested in the history of drag a good place to start is by reading InQueery: Trixie Matel Breaks Down the History of "Drag".
What is Drag?
Drag, as we see it on Drag Race, is oftentimes a performance of hyper femininity. But drag is so much more than that. There are also Drag Kings who perform a heightened version of masculinity. But overall, Drag is an opportunity to play with gender, and is oftentimes a social commentary on gender and gender norms.
In Vancouver, we are lucky to have drag performers like Rose Butch, who identifies as being a Drag Thing. A drag thing is a person whose drag is not focused on performing any gender, but instead encompasses the fluidity of gender.
Dust, the host of Commercial Drag, embraces this idea of fluidity not only in their personal drag style but in their role as host and organizer of Commercial Drag. Dust identifies as a Drag Person rather than a Drag Queen, as they feel they are not “the Queen” of the show and do not “rule” over anyone, including the other performers. Dust also embraces the “campy” nature of their drag and have chosen to forgo big fancy wigs and ball gowns that are often associated with drag. Though their makeup is still fabulous.
What is Commercial Drag?
Originally called “Sleepy Girls” while at their previous Kitsilano location, Commercial Drag was rebranded as such when they moved to East Van.
Now, Commercial Drag happens bi-weekly at the London Pub on Main Street. Come out for dinner at 8:00pm and show starts at 9:30pm (queer time!).
Commercial Drag also often has unique themes for their shows which are really fun. For example; Pokemon, Theydies of the 80s, Nightmare Before Christmas (for Halloween of course), and the list goes on.
The next themed night is Twilight on May 19th. Check them out on Facebook to stay up to date with their upcoming themes.
Why was Commercial Drag Started?
Commercial Drag was started by Dust as a response to what they thought was missing in the Vancouver Drag scene. Dust’s goal with starting commercial drag was to have a show with “a lot of heart”. To Dust that means a community space that has a lot of love and builds people and the community up. And you will definitely feel that when you visit commercial drag, it feels like one big drag family.
Who Does Drag?
When a lot of people think about drag they probably think about gay men’s performance of hyperfeminity, and this is typical of most of the contestants on Drag Race. But not only has drag expanded into performances including Drag Kings, really anyone can do drag. Drag is exaggerated gender performance, and gender social commentary and anyone of any gender can choose to do this.
Some may choose to perform as Rose Butch does and focus on gender fluidity while others choose to perform a hyperfeminie or hypermasculine drag character regardless of their assigned sex or gender presentation.
Can trans people do drag?
Absolutely. Oftentimes, drag is a safe space for trans people to explore their gender identity. Or a safe place they can perform their gender, because it is not safe for them to be out all of the time. There is a long history of trans people performing drag and it is going to look differently for every individual.
Don’t worry if you have considered this question or asked this question and then regretted asking it. I identify as a trans guy and before I came out I really wanted to try performance as a drag king. Unfortunately I was never brave enough to give this a try. But now that I am fully out as trans I don’t know what drag would look like for me. I imagine hyperfeminity would feel incredibly uncomfortable for me but don’t know what hypermasculinity would look like. Gender is complicated that’s why drag is so important in our community.
Sexuality and Drag
Commercial Drag is moving from a weekly format to the new bi-weekly format as of May 05th 2019. This choice is, in part, due their focus on BI representation. Drag is for everyone and those who identify as bisexual regularly get left out of the conversation. Often we are quick to judge people who appear to be hetero. Don’t get me wrong there is good reason for this hesitancy, but let’s not be so quick to judge based on presentation. What appears to be hetero may not actually be hetero.
Commercial Drag is a unique space to consider this conversation because it happens at a venue that is typically quite hetero. When chatting with Dust about Commercial Drag they mentioned times where a group of appearing straight guys happened to be at the London Pub for dinner or drinks right before the show started and then decided to stay. Dust caught themself wishing the group would leave because then the table could be filled with queers. But Dust watched them “get their life” during the show and realized that “a fan is a fan”. This is also a great opportunity to reach a wider audience and possibly teach someone something about us queers. I definitely hope those guys took something away from the show that night.
What is Special About Commercial Drag?
Commercial Drag is a little wacky, therefore it attracts a diverse group of people and it is very inclusive so they stick around. From my experience at the show, there is a large diversity in the types of performances you will see on the Commercial Drag stage, as well as a diverse cast of performers. This is what makes it easy to always come back and never be disappointed.
A great example of some of the wackiness that happens at Commercial Drag is when a performer is really turning it up, some of the other performers will take off some of their garments or their wig and throw it on the stage and the audience often follows suit until the stage is littered with various clothings items. Sounds pretty weird but it’s really cool to experience. This is one of the moments that you really feel the love in the room.
What else Does Commercial Drag do?
Through their production company Dust and their co-host, Jerrilynn Spears, have created a show called Yuk it Up Sis: A Comedy Drag Show that happens at Yuk Yuk’s downtown. They describe the show as a celebration of Comedy Drag and art of making people laugh.
“This show will have EVERYTHING you want and even maybe a few things you don’t.”
Their first run of the show sold out! Check them out on Facebook to buy tickets to their next show, you won’t want to miss it!
What is Commercial Drag doing for Vancouver Pride?
Vancouver pride is an amazing weekend but often times it can be incredibly expensive so folks have to pick and choose carefully what events they want to attend, and there are so many of them! But Commercial Drag is committed to being inclusive so is putting on a show called “$5 Pride” because they are committed to not raising their prides. It is happening Sunday evening after the Pride Parade.
How can you get involved?
Find the Commercial Drag events on Facebook and go to a show! Tip the performers while you’re there. Commercial Drag even has a rad tipping system that doesn’t require you to have small bills or even cash! Wow, right? Just use your credit card to buy drag dollars.
UPCOMING COMMERCIAL DRAG SHOWS:
May 5th: “Theydies of the 80’s”
May 19th: TWILIGHT!
June 2nd: TBA
June 16th: TBA
June 30th: TBA
Aug 4th: $5 Pride