Transgender, Afro-Latinx drag king Chiyo Gomes is challenging the ideals of mainstream drag.
Following the news that RuPaul’s Drag Race is set to make its way to the UK—and having experienced racism and transphobia on the drag scene—they’re calling for a “drag revolution.”
Gomes got into drag via sex work while at university. Their trans identity and drag persona have become almost indistinguishable, which is what makes drag so empowering and personal to them.
“I even used my actual name, Chiyo, as my stage name,” Gomes told PinkNews.
“Drag has definitely enabled me to explore my gender identity—most of the kings I know actually are trans.”
While doing sex work, Gomes began incorporating drag into their work to “see how the cis men would react.”
At the same time, they began watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“I was discovering drag and I was having questions about life and my identity—being racially mixed and my gender being a blur,” they explained.
Chiyo Gomes: Why RuPaul’s Drag Race is problematic
Gomes says that RuPaul’s Drag Race is not reflective of the UK’s “punk” drag scene and its many afab (assigned female at birth) and trans drag artists. Watch the video above for Chiyo’s take on Drag Race.
“You will never see an afab queen on Drag Race, or a drag king that is afab, because Drag Race and a lot of gay men are misogynistic as f**k,” they said.
Being a Afro-Latinx, non-binary drag artist means Gomes has encountered vastly different experiences of the drag world to the show’s competitors.
“A lot of people like to pretend that because we’re so queer, that we can’t be ignorant.”
—Non-binary drag artist, Chiyo Gomes
From racism in venues to misgendering onstage, performing for Gomes hasn’t come without challenges.
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“I’ve been heckled so many times,” they said. “I’ve been blacklisted from nights for calling producers racist, which they were.”
“Every time I perform in front of a white, cis man, especially if they’re heterosexual, if they’re not queer, and they’ve had a few drinks, they get really excited about stuff they don’t understand. Then they get mad about it.
“I think every community comes with ignorance but I think particularly in the LGBTQ+ community, a lot of people like to pretend that because we’re so queer, that we can’t be ignorant.
“A lot of people don’t like to look at themselves in the mirror and check their privileges.
“So navigating queer spaces—especially spaces that take so much pride in being queer and diverse—as someone who is brown, trans, non-binary, afab, nothing feels like home.”
That is not to say, however, that cisgender drag artists should not get opportunities to perform.
Gomes added: “If someone’s fierce, someone’s fierce. No-one is trying to imply cis people shouldn’t be on stages, it’s just that we can all share stages. They shouldn’t be on every stage.”
And finally, tips for becoming a drag star?
“Don’t let anyone tell you you don’t belong somewhere. Speak your truth, be openminded to criticism, explore your body, and own yourself.”