Drag 101 class offers genderbending tips

Matt Gardner
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Lez B Dudes members Caitlin Cleghorn (left), aka Cam Leon, and Stephanie Bourne, aka Ivan Tuplzu, discuss the subject of packing during their “Drag 101” class on Wednesday. Part of this week’s Pride Week celebrations, the class included tips for drag kings and queens on getting into character, binding, wardrobe, hair and makeup application.

For some, dressing up as a member of the opposite gender is a form of performance art. Others enjoy the chance to adopt a different persona or express their inner selves.

For the teachers of a Wednesday class on dressing in drag, any reason is equally valid -- a theme that instructor Caitlin Cleghorn, aka Cam Leon, emphasized from the outset.

“Drag is whatever you want it to be,” she said.

“It can be something that you do for fun. It can be something that you do because it’s part of your lifestyle. It can go a hundred different ways. There is no right or wrong way to do it. It’s whatever you want.”

Members of the local drag king troupe known as the Lez B Dudes facilitated the “Drag 101” class, which took place at the Prince Albert Multicultural Centre as part of ongoing Pride Week celebrations.

Approximately half a dozen audience members joined them for the occasion, which offered tips for drag kings and queens in five different areas: character-building, packing, binding, wardrobe and hair/makeup.

“Most of us (are) involved in the Q-Network, so we thought it would be awesome to see if there’s anyone else in the community who wants to come out and learn some of the basics of drag,” Cleghorn said.

In their discussion of character, the Lez B Dudes pointed to persona performance, persona and performance persona as three different choices favoured by drag kings and queens.

The first involves creating a character and becoming that character while performing live, while the second does not include the live performance aspect. The third, meanwhile, involves onstage performing in drag without a specific persona.

Speaking for the Lez B Dudes, who specialize in lip synching and dancing and thus fall into the first category, Cleghorn noted, “Most of us just do it for fun. I personally just do it because it’s entertaining.

“I also have a female character,” she noted. “It’s fun to get onstage and dance and be a performer, which isn’t necessarily something that I would do as myself. It can be easier to get up on a stage and dance and be charismatic when you’re not yourself.”

As part of their routine, each member of the Lez B Dudes created for themselves a character of the opposite gender based on an exaggerated stereotype.

While Cleghorn chose a cowboy persona for the character of Cam Leon, fellow troupe members Stephanie Bourne and Sam Witcher adopted the personas of a Russian mobster and what Cleghorn described as a “goth kid”, respectively.

“The base element of drag is perpetuating a gender stereotype into the extreme, is the easiest way to put it,” said Bourne, aka Ivan Tuplzu.

“You don’t necessarily have to do that, because you can do whatever you want. However, (for) the majority of queens, kings -- especially more on the king aspect -- it’s just a big exaggeration of a gender stereotype.”

Drag is whatever you want it to be. Caitlin Cleghorn, aka Cam Leon

In character as Tuplzu, Bourne spoke with a Russian accent about her vaguely-defined “business.” Meanwhile, Cleghorn preferred a Texan twang for her role as Cam.

“A lot of drag names are a little ridiculous,” she said. “Some of them are a little bit offensive even.”

Moving on to the intricacies of how to dress in drag, the couple discussed the finer points of packing and binding.

While the former involves adding layers of clothing and other objects underneath one’s garments to simulate the body of the opposite gender, the latter relates to binding down one’s body parts for the same purpose.

Though Cleghorn and Bourne naturally had more experience with the drag king aspect, an audience member chimed in on how drag queens will often stuff bras or wear underwear one size too small in order to simulate the female body.

Where packing the bottom half is concerned, Cleghorn advocated the use of a sock for drag kings.

“I find the biggest benefit to packing as a female dressed as a male is that it makes me pay attention to how I’m walking,” she said. “If I don’t have anything there, I tend to walk more like a woman, which is a pretty good giveaway.”

Offering a word of warning on binding, Bourne noted, “Binding can be very dangerous, so if you're going to do it you need to be very careful and make sure you do your research or get help.

“Never wear your bind for more than six hours, and if you feel any kind of sharp pains, immediately take it off,” she added. “It can result in serious health hazards.”

The discussion on wardrobe highlighted one of the differences between drag kings and queens.

While drag kings can often get away with wearing secondhand clothing, Cleghorn noted that being a drag queen is often more expensive due to the added accessories.

“Dresses are expensive and makeup is expensive and wigs and the tons of pantyhose that you go through … depending again how far you want to go,” she said. “If you are wearing a corset, corsets aren’t necessarily cheap.”

Where makeup is concerned, the pair said that drag kings should not wear any, while suggesting that drag queens might benefit from the help of an experienced woman to help with application.

Though committed drag queens may grow out their hair, the pair said a good wig is a more convenient alternative.

Drag kings with long hair, on the other hand, can simply tuck their hair up into a hat to affect a more masculine appearance.

Organizations: Prince Albert Multicultural Centre

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