So You're Attending A Drag Show | Drag Show Etiquette 101
So you’re headed to your first drag show! Drag has exploded into the mainstream cultural zeitgeist. RuPaul’s empire is unshakable after 10 seasons, queens like Violet Chachki and Milk are breaking out of nightlife and into high fashion, and local drag shows across the globe are flourishing. Drag is magic! Drag is for everyone. Here are some tips from a seasoned queen for having the best f*cking time ever, without stepping on anyone’s 9” Pleaser heels!
Don’t f*cking walk where someone is performing. The performance space (stage) is usually well-defined. If you’re standing in it, someone will let you know. The audience is here to watch the queen or king perform, not you (no matter how cute you are). Unless the performer comes up to you and invites you onstage to use in their act, do NOT go up on stage and expect a private performance.
Don’t Be A Mess
Drag shows are usually at bars, and bars are where alcohol is served and where lines are sometimes cut in bathrooms. Have fun, relax, let your wig down, but be safe and don’t get sloppy. If you do get too sloppy, the emcee or the queens will probably rip you a new one, and you’ll also probably deserve it.
Once Again, It’s Not About You
Are you doing something to steal focus? Stop doing that thing. Interrupting a performance is rude to everyone. Don’t heckle the emcee, don’t try to be funnier than the queens, and don’t make a spectacle of yourself. Look, it might be your birthday/anniversary/bachelorette party/etc. Maybe the queen even sings you happy birthday. Bask in the moment, and then sit your ass down and enjoy the show like everyone else.
You’re enjoying the show, so show it! Cheer, clap, stomp your feet. Be enthusiastic, and play along. If the emcee or a queen says jump, jump! And don’t boo. Unless the person with the microphone tells you to. Many local shows feature new performers who put many hours and hard earned money into rehearsing and creating their look. Drag do take nerve, so show your appreciation!
Tip the Girls! (And Boys, And Everyone In Between)
If you’re standing or sitting front-row at a drag show, you should be prepared to tip. The best policy is to just hand the performer your tips with your arm outstretched, or toss the money onstage if they’re busy. Don’t make them “work for it” by having them pull a bill out of your cleavage or from your mouth (which, BTW, could disrupt their entire routine.) Giving a tip is not an opportunity to join the performance, or an opportunity to grope a performer. It’s ok to have fun, but don’t disrupt the show, and don’t get handsy. A performer might dance with you for a sec - let it happen, and then step back to your spot. And if a queen wants you to put a tip in her bra, she’ll let you know. Queens are many things but subtle is not one of them.
Sidebar: Why Tip?
Listen. No one can make you tip. But it’s an unspoken rule of drag shows. If you’re going to take up a table or seat closest to the performance area, shell out. I know, you probably already paid a cover. But chances are, the venue is taking a large percentage of the door, but the show organizers, emcee, and DJs also have to be paid. That leaves minor ducats for performers, if anything. (Many performers work only for tips). Plus, drag performers work HARD and drag is EXPENSIVE. So show some $upport!
Do not initiate physical contact with a performer. Don’t initiate non-consensual physical contact with anyone, for that matter. That goes for other audience members! Drag performers put hours into their makeup, hair and outfits so please don’t grab or touch! If a performer leans in for a hug or a cheek kiss, be mindful, and keep it an air-kiss. You might see a performer showing some members of the audience some extra love. They’re probably friends. Don’t assume you’re entitled to the same level of affection after a three-second tip interaction.
Leave Your Assumptions At The Door
Are many drag queens cis gay men? Yes. Are all drag performers cis gay men? Not by a long shot. Many drag queens are trans women, and many are cis women! Many drag kings are transmen, and some are cis women. Nonbinary or genderqueer folx also play with drag to subvert gender! Never assume, don’t ask if a queen or king is “a real girl” or “a real dude.” What all drag performers have in common is that they are people challenging, subverting and dismantling traditional ideas of gender by performing heightened versions of masculinity, femininity, and everything in between!
This might seem like a lot of rules to keep in mind, but the most important thing to remember is to enjoy yourself and don’t prevent anyone else from enjoying themselves too. So grab some singles, grab a drink (or a seltzer water) and have a damn good time!