See me during the day and you’ll find an average, unremarkable 21 year-old boy, in a band t-shirt, jeans, and a plaid shirt. Maybe the more observant will notice one or two pieces of jewellery more than average, or even the last stubborn stains of last night’s eyeliner, but generally speaking, any young man you run into on any day in London.
Some nights, however, make your way into Soho and you’ll find me in a Snow White dress, bra exposed and fishnets torn, or as a sexy Statue of Liberty, desperately trying not to lose my green crown as I head into an underground bar. Three months ago, I started doing drag. By day, I am Sam, English student, aspiring filmmaker. By night, I am Elekktra Complexx, punk princess bitch. And to prevent me having to answer the thousandth round of in-depth questions from well-meaning, but ignorant acquaintances, let me explain why.
What I think I really love about drag is that it makes a virtue out of every single trait that made my childhood hell. For ten years, from the age of six to my mid teens, I was bullied every single day for my feminine mannerisms, dedication to stereotypically gay pop divas and being overweight. And before the ‘kids can be so cruel’ brigade can even begin, let me say that that was not only from my classmates but also from my teachers – teachers who as far as I know still teach and continue to spread their bigoted views. But when I’m Elekktra, an intense knowledge of pop culture and generally walking, talking and dancing like a woman are my greatest strengths.
Every time I sit down to plan an outfit based on an obscure Madonna tour costume, sissy my gay ass to the dance floor I consider a personal fuck you to every one of those bullies, none of whom have the creativity or wit to do something like drag. And as for being overweight…well, let just say those curves and swerves come in mightily handy when you are trying to fill out a dress! Also, as I have already said, as a boy I am pretty unremarkable, of average height, build and attractiveness. Nothing that I could wear or no amount of grooming I could do as a boy would be met with anything near the same enthusiasm that my drag looks get. Even such a new queen as me, a complete novice at hair and makeup and on only a student budget gets told they are beautiful in drag in a way that no one would if I wasn’t wearing a dress. Even the documentary I made for LGBT History Month in drag would never have got the reception it did get if it was just Sam and not Elekktra.
I have never had a desire to permanently change my gender (although I am lucky enough to have friends whose bravery and and candor in changing their gender identities fills me with pride and inspiration), but the ability to take what I love most about each gender, mix it with a few cultural references, and using them to create a character is an experience I cherish, and one I couldn’t do without now. It is the dressing up I have always loved to do mixed with the punk spirit that so inspired me as a teenager mixed with intense admiration of RuPaul’s Drag Race (I swear I know more about Jinkx Monsoon’s life than what my own family are up to) and my admiration of any man who puts on a dress and demands to entertain and to be listened to as a gay man bringing something unique to this world.