My Drag/Performer Story

Most names in this are pseudonyms or variations of the people’s names.

Taken in 2021. This is me in my costumer for my act ‘Consent’.

Image description: A photo of Megan from about chest up. They have long dark hair, and dark eyes. They have heavy stage makeup. They are wearing a fluorescent top that has geometric patterns or lines. It is green, yellow, pink and silver. Behind them is a silver sequinned curtain and a plant.

Content warning:  Suicide, mental health problems, bullying,

At the beginning of 2004 I was a heterosexual, cis gender, monogamous, married woman. At the end of that year, I came out, the first time and was identifying as a lesbian.  By about April 2005 I had well and truly launched into the lesbian community and was making new friends and working out who I was.  I had no internalised homophobia or bits that worried me (apart from the whole coming out to everyone thing), it was a massive step forward towards who I am now. My now, ex-husband is one of my dearest and closest friends, all these years later.

Somewhere in that process I had decided I wanted to try performing as a drag king.  I have no idea where it came from, I had had little exposure to any drag kings and in fact had only ever seen one, who wasn’t particularly good, performing at a local nightclub about 10 years earlier.  At the time I started my journey, in 2004, there was no social media, there was not a lot of information on the internet – and even if there was, I did not have my own computer.  I was in a vast, desert void as far as information of any kind of information about drag (kings) went.  I had never done any kind of performance or training as an actor; I was clueless when it came to performing and any kind of queer history around drag. I am a practising visual artist, trained in textiles – my biggest strength going into performing.

I had signed up to the Pink Sofa – a mostly cis gender lesbian dating/friendship site. I had done the local Stepping Out course for women questioning their sexuality and I had my first set of lesbian friends and the numbers of friends were growing.  I spent a lot of time on The Pink Sofa, I’m not sure what I was doing on the sofa, who knows what they are doing when they first come out. You think you know what you are doing only to be embarrassed about a lot of stuff later. Anyway, I was chatting to two different people of relevance to this story. One was an artist, she lived somewhere in the snowy mountains and she was awesome. One day I was chatting to her and I told her that my bedroom in my new shared house, was teal green and I had also told her that I wanted to do drag.  She came back with, Mr Green Teal.  That’s it, that was going to be my name.  Another friend was a drag king living in Melbourne, she was giving me bits of information about facial hair and other things.  These were literally the only pieces of information or help I had had.

Time went on and I ended up moving from that house.  I had been ‘studying’ men for a while. I watched music television shows and watched the way the men moved, how they strutted or swaggered around and their posing. I also watched their facial expressions.  I had bought a bit of makeup and had tried drawing facial hair on with eyeliner.  With this, I practised making different faces in the mirror.  At the time, I was living in a tiny flat with only one small mirror in the bathroom, so could not look at anything more than my face.

I decided I really loved the old-time crooner style as a basis for a character.  The kind of bloke every mum loved, but at the end of the day he was/is just as dodgy in behaviour as the, out-there, badly behaved male rock stars, who took drugs and threw televisions out of hotel windows.  I also liked that the ‘crooner’ is timeless, and it would not matter how old I was doing this type of character (at age 37 or so, the idea of playing a younger type of character, didn’t seem right to me).  I loved the music of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and I had seen Chris Isaak live a couple of times and had had the pleasure of him being only a few feet in front of me. Chris Isaak had this blue suit. So, I needed a blue suit.  I searched and found one on Ebay.  It arrived and it was the best thing ever.  I had found the suit, about two years after deciding I wanted to perform and I had a vague idea about facial makeup – which, back then, was simply facial hair.  No such thing as toning, or open chest style costuming and performance.   

It was about this time that I saw a post in a local Yahoo group – ACT Queer. ACT Queer was the source of all the information for the LGBT (no other real ‘letters at that point) back then.  Someone had made a post asking for women who wanted to get together to put together a drag king act for an upcoming event, the Purple Party.  The Purple Party was an annual queer women’s dance that was part of SpringOut, our annual pride festival.

Alex, was a woman who had recently moved to Canberra from Melbourne.  Melbourne was where it was all at as far ask Kings went at the time.   With King Vic, produced by Bumpy being a regular king event. I had managed to get to Melbourne to see a show, which was my first taste of any decent, real drag.   Alex brought a small group of us together and helped us out with some of the stuff around costuming and facial hair and together we put together an act for The Purple Party.  The four of us were the Duke Box Bois, we did a group number and a solo each.

Finally, my dream had become true.  I was doing it.  I didn’t feel nervous, or so I thought, this was going to be my first time on a stage.  I had asked some of my friends, who were at the event, to bring roses along. I told them they would know what to do with them.   The first bit we did was a group number, it was to ACDC ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, then we did solos.  Finally, I got to channel Chris Isaak. The audience was miles away and with the lights shining on me I could not see a thing.  I walked out towards the audience during my act, hoping I would not trip on anyone.  Whilst I was performing, I had various friends coming up and handing me roses… that is what they were for.  Afterwards I sat around like a stunned rabbit, I had finally done it and I realised just how nervous I had been.  I had finally achieved my ‘bucket list’ item, I decided quickly that I wanted to keep going if there were any opportunities to perform.  To this day, I treat every performance like my last one, because I have had so many times when I’ve ended up being the only performer or the only performer of my kind, that I’ve had to find new groups to perform with.

The Duke Box Bois ended there.  There was some excitement about doing more, but it didn’t eventuate.  For the next bit of time, I sort of floated around, looking for opportunities. I had no acting skills and was very new to being on the stage, it never occurred to me to try outside the queer communities, because at this stage I was immersed in queer communities and rarely did anything outside of them.  Even in my employment as a Youth Worker, I was doing a lot for young queer people.

The next thing that came along, was a show at Cube nightclub.  I think it was a drag competition of some kind. I can’t really remember, there are vague memories about it only being three performers and one of them was Tracy From Charnwood and I think I won.  At the event was my new friend Nel.   Nel was very excited about the whole thing and she said I should run a workshop.  My immediate thought was ‘How can I run a workshop, I know fuck all and I’ve only performed a couple of times’.   Not long after this Nel wrote an article for LOTL about drag kings and I was one of the featured kings, along with Rocco D’Amore, Sexy Galexy and I can’t remember who else.  I felt I had hit peak lesbian fame, appearing in LOTL. This article appeared in LOTL in 2008.

I did end up running a drag king workshop, this was in 2007. It was a lot of fun showing the new kings what I knew and encouraging them to find their inner king. From this workshop the Canberra Kings were born. Initially there was about seven of us, but over the next few years people came and went, in the end there was probably about 15 people who I performed with under the Canberra Kings name.  Our first gig, after the first workshop was at the Purple Party again in November 2007.  I told the kings that they would never have a better audience.  We practised, came up with a group routine and solos and performed in front of about 150 screaming women.  It was very tough…. Not.

The above images are of Mr Green Teal/Megan performing at the Hush Lounge.

Image descriptions: Top: We see Mr Green Teal from the chest up. He is on a stage. Mr Green Teal is wearing a blue suit with black sequins around the collar and end of the sleeves. He is wearing a red World AIDS day ribbon. He has short dark hair, black moustache and goatee and sideburns. He is holding a fake microphone up to his mouth. He is looking directly at the camera and has a facial expression that is pleading. The background is red and silver.

Image desciption: Bottom: 4 drag kings in a row on a stage. In the centre is Rocco Hardness. Rocco has short slicked back dark hair, dark eyebrows and eys and a tiny moustaches and goatee. He is wearing glasses: He is wearing a striped shirt with a black top and a mustard coloured loose tie. He has his hand up, commanding attention to look at him. On his left is Mr Green Teal in a blue suit. On his right we see two other performers behind him. Int he background is a big red ribbon and silver curtains.

From here we were invited to perform at a World Aids Day fundraiser event a couple of weeks later.  The kings really hit the Canberra (mostly lesbian and gay) communities.  This event was held at the new queer venue, The Hush Lounge.  The Hush Lounge went on to become our ‘base’ or our ‘home’ for the next few years.  At the time there were next to none, queer venues h.  There was Cube and Tilley’s.  One being a nightclub and the other being a café.  That was it. There were no other venues that had shows of any kind. Burlesque was very new and happening outside of this scene and other venues that had any type of entertainment were for bands.  Hush wasn’t set up for shows, so when we performed, we either got changed in the toilets or the kitchen. There were no real stage lights or anything like that.  A simple stage was all it was.

When we performed at Hush, we weren’t paid.  We were sometimes paid with drinks (something I learnt was not a great idea).  I can sense all the disapproval coming from people who read this.  All I can say is, it was a different time.  There were no venues other than Hush we could perform at and they simply did not have the money to pay us.  We loved what we were doing, and we were all beginners, most of us had not had any stage experience at all, of any kind, except for Butch Bendson, who was a singer and had fronted a couple of popular lesbian bands.  We were creating community through drag and learning how to perform at the same time.   At the time drag queens barely had a place to perform anywhere, let alone kings who were lessor known than queens.  At the time drag was very binary, with few people who had heard or seen a king let alone a non-binary or genderfuck type of drag. If we had insisted on being paid, we would not have performed.  That is the way it was.

We did this for a few years, with a revolving door of kings and eventually there were a few queens who were in the shows we were in.  Most of the shows were put together by other people and we were invited to perform. It was also during this time that the nastiness had started for me.   In my personal life I had decided that I did not want to be monogamous and that I was polyamorous.  I had a partner and then for a short while I had another partner.  This was all quite open.  There were many lesbians within the lesbian community who did not like this, and subtle bullying began.  In the first instance, I was left out of shows by producers then it spread wider to the community, where individual people were horrible to me, in an underhand manner that no one else noticed, or believed if I ever said anything. The other side to this, is that I had gained popularity and was front and centre in the community.  This was in stark contrast to the person I felt I was before I came out, which was a quiet wall flower who no-one ever remembered.  

 I was also doing very many other things for the community, including running a coffee group and as a volunteer running Stepping Out for same sex attracted women questioning their sexuality.  Apart from being polyamorous, I was also pushing in parts of the community for more acceptance of bi women (pan was not a thing then), and of transgender and intersex people.  A lot of (lesbian) women didn’t like this. As a drag king with a lot of visibility I was approached privately by a few, young trans men. Or young people who were questioning their gender.  They wanted information on how to ‘be a man’ and I was the visible source of information for them, as trans folk were pushed to the sides of the community and not accepted by many Lesbians (I can’t speak for gay men).  I felt privileged these young people would share this with me and did my best to direct them to resources and help them out.  (I was also the manager of a Youth Service and had a lot of knowledge of supports for local queer folk and I was writing a thesis about young people coming out or finding community in Canberra).

In the time between the end of 2007 and 2009 The kings did a lot of performance.  I ran more workshops, and more kings became involved. In 2009 and 2010 there were less kings and more queens were beginning to perform at Hush.  In my experience over the years, kings have more obstacles to performing than queens.  For a start we have not as visible to the wider community.  This is probably suited to a thesis topic; however, I have one word for this. Patriarchy.  Some of the obstacles I have seen are child-care or other types of carer responsibilities; Health issues that impact on ability to perform and less support within the community generally.  It has been less acceptable for women to do male drag, (cis) men do not like it, they don’t like the idea they might be mocked, and other women have issues with it as well.  This is changing, slowly, however we are still a long way behind drag queens for being accepted and being given equal stage space to queens.

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Hung Long and Mr Green Teal at a Drag Workshop, at The Hush Lounge.

Image description, top: Two people sit facing each other. One has their arm stretched up to the other persons face, putting makeup on. In the background is a doorway and chairs.

Image description, bottom: Mr Green Teal is on the right, they are putting makeup on another person sitting in front of them, while others watch in the background. They are all sitting in a bar area.

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As I began to share the stage with more queens, I was subjected to a lot of microaggressions,(except for Raine Ingmenn, who was my drag wife).  Individually, the queens were lovely, together, not so much.  They basically left me out a lot and did not give me the information I needed for shows.  It made performing with them hard and unpleasant at times.  

Throughout this time there were also a few photographers (#notallphotographers), whose focus seemed to be to, go to shows and take lots of photos for their own benefit. They would then post them onto Facebook (which was a new thing) without consulting the performers they had taken photos of.  There were several ‘arguments’ about whether or not they had the right to do this, the response being things like ‘it’s a public event and I’m entitled to because….blah blah blah…..   I had few photos of my own and no control over how my image was used or put into public by these photographers.   It was a double-edged sword, ‘oh yay some photos so I know how I looked, but ugh, they aren’t mine and I have no say’.  It felt like a type of violation, but not something I could name as such at the time.

From about 2009 to 2011 it is a bit of a blur.  Things got really hard personally.  My memory and order of events is skewed.  A friend of mine, Heidi, took her life.  I found out as I arrived for work the day after it happened.  At that time, I was working for one of the leading LGBT (still no inclusion of the other ‘letters’) organisations. I got the phone call and was stunned.  I had to go home.  I told the other staff what had happened and that I had to go home. A couple of days later I was at work and was discussing getting some piece of work done with a college and I commented with something like ‘It might be better not to count on me because I might have to go to Heidi’s funeral’.  About a week later, I was in the office and was one of the last people there.  Heidi had had her funeral.  The CEO came into my office, him and I were the last ones there.  He told me I should not say things like what I had said to my colleague (‘it might be better not to count on me..’) because it wasn’t a good look.  I didn’t know what to say and I don’t think I reported this to anyone. 

My friend had suicided, my friend who was part of the lesbian community.  My friend who was part of the community, the organisation I worked for was supposed to be supporting. I tried to get help through my workplace for counselling to deal with her death, but I was not ‘allowed’ to use the counsellor who worked for the organisation and we had no structures in place for me to access counselling free of charge (to me) anywhere else.  To access another counsellor, it would have cost me more money than I could afford, so I didn’t. This ‘event’ and how I was treated was in stark contrast compared to how I saw male colleagues treated when they had been affected by community crises.

Following this I had bad year, with about 4 of my closest friends experiencing bad mental health problems.  To a point, where I was making phone calls to help prevent suicide.  I was the one that worked ‘with people’. I was the one who had done the suicide prevention training.   The bullying from members of the community toward me, continued.  It was not helped by the fact that I was standing up more and more for the trans, bi and intersex folk in the community.  I found it really hard to understand why the BTI folk were not included in anything and why so many of the women I had met had ‘problems’ with them.  I was still performing, but a lot of the performance opportunities were drying up and it was hard performing around and for people who had been bullying me.  The Hush Lounge was struggling to keep going.  

Throughout this I never really got any sense of how I was as a performer.  As a king we did not call ourselves ‘drag family’ and there were personality clashes amongst us at times, so it was far from smooth sailing.  My sense of queer family and belonging was strong for a few years, but when the bullying started it gradually pushed me out of the community.

It was probably about this time that my health started to go downhill. My mental health had taken a beating and I had developed my own anxiety and depression, which took several more years to be diagnosed.  It was somewhere in here that a big nasty thing happened to me. It took a long time before I got any help for this either.  I did not feel safe getting help because everyone knew me in the services I would have gone to for help.  I thought people in the lesbian community would not be understanding and it would just lead to more bullying.  This was probably the final straw that pushed me out of the lesbian and gay community at the time.  Sometime after this the Hush Lounge closed and with it a whole chapter in my life.

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Rocco Hardness at The Hush Lounge. 2009 (approx)

Image description top: Roccco Hardness is standing in front of us, we are looking up at them. They are lip syncing to the crowd. Rocco has dark slicked back short hair, dark eyes and a small moustache and they are wearing glasses. They have bits of tissue stuck to their face. They are wearing a black leather jacket, a stripey black and white shirt, grey pants and a loose, mustard tie. They have a sock coming out of their pants.
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Harley Hungwell, at The Hush Lounge around 2009

Image description, top. Harley Hungwell is standing on a stage. They have a black leather vest on, with a kahki coloured, short sleeved shirt and a pair of black jeans and a leather wrist band. They have short, light brown hair slicked back and a moustache. They have their hands on their hips and are looking out towards the audience with a pleading expression.

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Mr Green Teal at The Hush Lounge, around 2009.

Image description: Above: Mr Green Teal is standing arms outstretched, lip syncing at the audience. We see them from the waist up. They are wearing a black shiny vest, a white shirt and a black tie. They have a black hat, with a red band on. They have short dark hair, black sideburns, moustache and goattee.

I was alone again, or I felt alone again.  There were only a couple of other kings performing, sometimes.  Harley Hungwell said to me as The Hush Lounge closed, ‘where can we go now, where are we going to perform?’   I didn’t really have an answer.  Then I found one.  I had been to see a burlesque show by Miss Kitka’s House of Burlesque about 7 months earlier.  I had also seen burlesque performer Heidi Hottentot perform several times at The Hush Lounge.  The Miss Kitka show I had seen, was ‘The Sheriff’s Daughter’. It was vintage burlesque, it had male characters in it, who were played by men (not doing burlesque but they were part of the show). At the time I had thought it would have been great if they had been drag kings.  I approached Miss Kitka.  I felt safe approaching her because my friend who I had seen in her show, was a drag queen. He didn’t do drag very often and was not part of the main drag queen community, but he had played a small but very important role in her show.

The next bit forms the next important part of my story.

I had contact with Miss Kitka and she informed me there would be a place for me in her mid-year show, which was coming up.  I ended up going and doing a performance at a Burlesque Bazaar which was held in the daytime.  Burlesque Bazaars were a concept that Miss Kitka had developed as a way for burlesque performers to make some money to help pay for their costumes.  It was a mini market with a bunch of different stalls selling a range of things from pasties, to shoes and second-hand clothes.  Throughout the time the bazaar is open they also have performances, intermittently.   The bazaar also had a big vintage focus because Miss Kitka’s brand of burlesque is vintage.  She runs classes from beginners to production classes which focus on putting together a range of acts for a show.  Each show having a theme and focussing on a particular time, which influences the music used. At this point in time, Miss Kitka ran the only burlesque classes in Canberra and is, as far as I know, the longest running burlesque school in Australia.

I went along to the bazaar to perform and meet Miss Kitka.  I knew me being there had multiple purposes.  It was for Miss Kitka to see if I was any good; To help promote the upcoming show and the local newspaper had also turned up to take photos etc about the upcoming show.

I was nervous as fuck, but also excited.  I had no idea what to expect; I had not met any of the performers; Had no idea about the venue; Had no idea about what the audience would be like and most importantly had not performed any drag or been out and about in the regular ‘straight’ community since I had come out. This is big deal. It is a big deal because as a queer person, I had no idea how safe I was. It was a risk.

I remember being on the stage performing my number.  A big part of my performance is eye contact with the audience.  I am the crooner.  I need to make sexy eyes with the audience – even if I cannot see them.  Anyway, I am on the stage and I’m trying to look at audience members.  They were all milling about the room looking at different stalls.  Every time I tried to look at someone, they conveniently were not looking at me. It was very strange.  I was getting no energy back from the audience and felt like I was falling flat.  Any performer will know how hard this is.   After I performed, I decided to look around the bazaar.  People were simultaneously avoiding looking at me as well as staring at me when I was not looking at them.  They had never seen a king.  They didn’t know ‘what’ I was.  Rosie La Rue, one of the performers I would later become friends with, told me …‘I thought you were a strange looking man, it looked like you had drawn your beard on, and I couldn’t understand why’.  I was also whisked off for a photo opportunity with the current Kitten of the Year and Audience Choice Kitten of the Year.  Miss Deb Delicious and Miss Melina Fahrenheit.  Now, I had no idea about what these titles were, I only knew that I had to stand between these two gorgeous women for a photo and I was as self-conscious as fuck.   The photo was later published in the local newspaper.

After the day at the Bazaar, I attended a few rehearsals in leadup to the mid-year show which had a Christmas in July theme.  I ended up being involved in a few acts in the show and doing a few numbers as Mr Green Teal during the intermission.

This led to about 8 years on and off doing shows with Miss Kitka’s House of Burlesque.  In this time, I did some shows in drag and other shows doing feminine burlesque numbers.  After the mid-year, Christmas in July show I asked Miss Kitka if I could be involved in the end of year show, Kitten of the Year.  This was/is a show held each year where the performers research a vintage burlesque performer, gain permission from the performer or their estate and pay tribute to the performer.  Miss Kitka wanted me to pay homage to Johnny Ray.  I was not a competitor, but I had a great time paying homage to Johnny Ray, with several memorable moments.  One was during rehearsals where Miss Kitka kept saying ‘again’ (as she was known to do) and was instructing me to roll over on the ground on top of my ‘microphone’ (an old-fashioned microphone prop I made).  This was in 2011.

Video desciption (above): Megan as crooner Johnny Ray, crooning at an audience of women at his feet who are swooning in response.

Johnny Ray
Mr Green Teal as Johnnie Ray. Photo by Annabelle.

Image description: Above. Mr Green Teal is lip syncing into a fake microphone. They are wearing a black suit and tie and a white shirt. They have dark slicked back hair. Their eyes are closed and their mouth open wide. They are leaning forward to the microphone, which is on a stand. One arm is by their side the other is bent up with their hand in a fist.

23. Shannon Brown
Photo by Captain Spitfire

Image description, above: Mr Green Teal is on a stage. He is crouched down and is leaning forward holding a microphone. He is crooning to some women, we see the backs of their heads and one in the background who is looking up, longingly. He is wearing a grey suit and had short dark hair.

I had not been putting much effort into my visual art, so in October 2011 I had an exhibition, Mr Green Teal and Friends.  This exhibition tied together visual art practices with my performance. I drew on pop art and Andy Warhol’s idea that everyone wants 15 minutes of fame, I had an array of artworks using images of Mr Green Teal.  The exhibition also featured lots of photos of other kings performing.  This included some kings from overseas as well as The Canberra Kings and kings who had performed at King Vic.

Mid 2011, I had started beginner burlesque classes with Deb Delicious and Melina Fahrenheit, as a part of Miss Kitka’s House of Burlesque.  It thought it might help me expand myself as a performer and give me an opportunity to explore my femme.  I had not presented as queer femme since I had come out, my presentation had always been masculine look.   I found there to be challenges in this and even years later when I did some incredibly feminine burlesque numbers, I never felt particularly feminine.  I never felt that I could quite ‘get there’ as compared to my cis gender burly friends.  I was also one of the oldest performers for quite a while, which also had an impact. I watched over the years as many women started burlesque and blossomed and really learned to love their bodies and their sexuality, but that never happened to me.

Arachne Phobia
Me as Arachne phobia in my first burlesque show, Jungle Fever. Produced by Miss Kitka’s House of Burlesque. I’m in my Glamazon costume here. 2012 (I think). Photo taken by Sugar Starr.

Image description: Megan is standing looking at the camera we see them from thigh height up. They have long dark curly hair, with a big white flower in it and feminine stage makeup. They have dark eyes and are wearing a black bra decorated with shiny green ribbons, with bits of fabric floating down over their belly. They have a green skirt that has sequins on it. Their arms are by their sides, they are smiling.

In fact, it was the opposite.  Basically, I came to realise that I was non-binary.  I constantly felt that I had to fit into a binary with burlesque.  It was also very difficult because I was struggling with my health the whole time.  First it was mental health and then it turned into more a physical health problem.  I always felt like I was behind and struggling to keep up.  I bought many show and workshop tickets over the years that I had to give away because I was not able to attend. I couldn’t go to workshops or shows, which meant that over time people progressively had no idea who I was or what my acts were like.  The burlesque scene in Canberra had grown with a few different schools popping up, run by different people.

After about five years in the burlesque scene, I began to encounter some bullying in this community as well. Some will say it doesn’t exist, however I encountered it.  I have never talked about this bullying or pointed my finger at anyone, this is because I prefer not to contribute to gossip.  Plus, in all cases the person doing the bullying has had more popularity, more stage space and more ‘everything’ than me, so who would believe me anyway. I chose to ‘avoid’ where I could.  Again, and continually, I also ‘speak up’ or call out behaviours that are transphobic, racist or misogynist or any other behaviours that oppress groups of people and this in itself has led to me being not believed or my ‘side’ of the story minimised by people in the burlesque community.

The thing I have lacked over all these years is a queer mentor.  I spent a lot of time trying to perform on my own, I spent a lot of time trying to carve a space for me, a queer performer.  The performance community – drag (kings), and burlesque and other types of performance have grown immensely in my local area and beyond.  Now there are lots queer performers doing burlesque and there are a number of kings, however I find myself in a place now where my health/disability means that participating is very hard, and I’m rarely invited or had space held for me.  I had new friends and a place of sorts for a while at the beginning of my burlesque journey, however being unable to attend a lot of things meant the invitations stopped coming and eventually I was just left out. I spent years trying to find a queer sparkle family and now there are a few queer performers out there, but my sparkle family is very small.  I’m mostly forgotten, or it feels that way.

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Sparklemuffin, in Miss Kitkas House of Burlesque, Elvis show. 2017. Photo by D-eye
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As Pastor Randy Powers in Miss Kitka’s House of Burlesque, Kitka Ministries 2014 (?)
CaptaVitae Photography - http://www.captavitaephotography.com
CaptaVitae Photography – http://www.captavitaephotography.com

On and off over the years, including the last few years, I have been asked by LGBTIQA+ event producers to ‘apply to perform’ at events. The sort of things they have said are…’Please apply to perform, for, you know, our LGBTIQA+ communities, but we probably won’t pay you because you get the privilege of performing for your community and we’re trying to raise money’  …  The problem with this is often the performers they bring in from interstate have been paid.  My response ……………. (in my head, get Fucked) ….. I’m well past the performing for nothing now, unless it’s a very special event and no one is being paid.

Even in the last couple of years I have had this experience.  ‘Please fill out this 15-page form, because we want drag kings at our event, and can you get a whole group together, in like, 3 weeks and have a polished act for us…and we won’t pay you, and you might not get a spot anyway’…. get fucked.

‘We are asking everyone to audition, we know you have a reputation…blah blah blah… we know you have health issues, but you should be able to manage this’… um, patronising or what, plus how do you know what I can and can’t do.  Get fucked.

I’ve been involved in SpringOut, our local pride event a number of times. I’ve run events, I even organised a Fair Day, yes, the whole day and I have performed (back in the day) without being paid because I chose to do that at the time, because I was a very new performer. However, I have never been paid to perform at a SpringOut event – I ‘just’ put in loads of work over the years so others can get that benefit now. Yes, this makes me angry. Hurt and screwed over by organisations and a few more individual people.

I recognise that in more recent times, I could/should put myself forward more to perform with producers, however I’ve had so many negative experiences that it’s hard for me to not believe that I’ll get a positive response, and it takes so much energy.  I have applied for a few shows locally, over the years and had more rejections than acceptances.

Sparklemuffin by Nathan J Lester - small resize
Photo taken by Nathan J Lester. Jan 2020.
PhotoEditor_20191011_190729578
Sparklemuffin performing their Woodstock act, at Drag Cabaret, produced by Guy Alias in Sept 2019. Photo by Superflux Media.
Mr Green Teal photo resize

Currently, I’m up against the challenges of being a person with chronic illness or disability and trying to perform.  Many producers don’t understand the needs of disabled performers and have an expectation that I should be the one who ‘reaches out’ and then educate them on what I need.  It should be the other way around, producers should educate themselves on how to include disabled performers and I mean all disabled performers, not the ones that have palatable illness/disabilities and can basically carefully mask all their behaviours or needs, so they fit in, with the producer  not needing to do any ‘extra’ work.

There are many active performers with disabilities and not for a second do I think they have it easy, they would be working way harder than an able person to be successful. However, there are also a lot of us who don’t even put up our hand to perform because it’s all too hard.  We don’t know if we’ll be well enough tomorrow, yet alone next week or in six weeks when a show is on and you’ll probably think badly of us if we pull out (or so we think). If we do this once, that’s pretty bad (or so we think), if we do it four times in a row that’s horrendous…. Or so we think, however there should be platforms for us, if shows are to be truly inclusive, if shows are to include the whole community.  It should be not be only the fittest most able people who get the spotlight.

So why do I keep trying to perform, given I’ve had so many ‘hard’ ‘bad’ things happen?  Well, it’s an important part of my identity and there have been some really great times in there, even though I don’t seem too ‘fit’ anywhere.   I like the idea that occasionally I get to connect with a part of me that I can’t carry off or be on a day-to-day basis.  Performing connects me more closely to my nonbinary, queer self.  It connects me to the ‘make believe’ playful side of myself, as well as the political activist in me.  I like the concept of ‘radical visibility’. (‘….. Radical Visibility, a movement based on claiming our bodies and, through the use of bright colors, exuberant fabrics, and innovative designs, they refuse to assimilate and are spearheading a Queer and Disabled dress reform movement…’. http://rebirthgarments.com/radical-visibility-collective). 

I have also very much enjoyed producing a few shows over the years, which I have done to provide a platform for groups of people.  The first one, held in 2014 (I think) was to begin a discussion on gender and provide discussion and opportunity for the trans community.  The second one, about a year later was for a wider LGBTIQA+ community and was a celebration of IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) – Australia).  The third one in 2017 had a focus on mental illness and mental health.  Each of these shows were fundraisers and had educational elements to them.

The next show I am producing is for LGBTIQA+ disabled/chronically ill/neurodiverse and Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing people and people with mental health problems/illness = LGBTIQA+ people with disabilities.  This will be at the end of 2021.  I hope to make a difference for disabled, queer folk through producing this show.

And.

I love dressing up and makeup, and audience energy, and make believe, and creativity, and acts that make a person think…. These days I’m a disabled, queer, nonbinary, pansexual, non-monogamous person.

First film clip comes with a content warning of covid/disease/illness.

I can also be found on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Sparklemuffin

Instagram – Sparklemuffin_mrgreenteal

and I have a webpage with all my different art and projects.http://www.arachneart.com

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