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How To Attend A Drag Show For The First Time

Drag shows are one of the most intimidating events you can attend. You have giant female impersonators who make a career out of teasing people and talking dirty in rooms of mostly drunk people — and it is your job to stay out of their way. So what should a newb like you be aware of before attending? Lots.

Before you head to the show, pick up a few dollar bills. You should probably get at least ten or twenty singles as this is the currency of the queens. As they perform, the best way to avoid being attacked, to propel the performance, and to basically be a good audience member is to tip—especially the host. Very similar to burlesque and strip performances, drag works by you slipping singles to the ladies. You can get daring and slide it into her cleavage or into a bra strap. Beware, though: just like any other person in the world, follow their lead and do not touch without permission. If you force money down their dress, you will get slapped in the face. Nothing is funnier than seeing someone publicly shamed by a drag queen.

When you get to the show, your seat or where you stand should be chosen very wisely. If you are a timid person who doesn’t like unwanted attention, stay in the back. Never leave yourself exposed and try to blend in with the scenery. Certain queens prey on the innocent that don’t want attention—and they will do their best to call you out. It’s happened to me. It did not end well. This story is for another time and is why I have a fear of drag queens.

(Note: if you are too cute or too muscular or too straight, you will get called out too. This happens at every show.)

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If you are some sort of masochist who enjoys being out in the open, grab a seat in the front. I can guarantee you that a queen will engage with you or even bring you onstage. If you don’t care or are calm and confident enough, grab an aisle seat. You have a 50/50 chance of engagement. You’ll likely get touched but won’t be the main target of the emcee.

The next thing you should know is that you need to be drinking because that helps support the show. Don’t order drinks during a performance, if possible, and don’t get too drunk. You will notice the too drunk people and the queens will actively make fun of them and avoid them but will also take their money. Smart!

Another thing: don’t grope a drag queen. Don’t walk in front of a drag queen. Don’t yell over a drag queen. As in church, whoever is at the altar is currently communing with god. Drag queens are gay clergy in their own rite right. If you you cross them, they will smite you by publicly embarrassing you.

And don’t be on your phone! You can take photos and you can take video but do not be fucking around on your fucking phone when a drag queen is right in front of you. I would not put it past them to rip the phone out of your hand and throw it somewhere in the bar. Moreover, do not fucking interrupt them to take a photo. You will likely get a hand to the face, the literal manifestation of the phrase, “Child, please.

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A word of caution: if you are a straight female attending with only straight females or a bachelorette party, you will most definitely be embarrassed and potentially kicked out. Your kind is welcome, of course, but gay men have a heightened sense of entitlement on their own grounds. Your best bet is to attend the show with gay men (i.e., not just one token) who can shield you from harm. Stay under the radar. You are not only a threat to attention but you are in another (gay male) world with its own rules. Queens are looking for reasons to kick out outsiders.

If you have to leave early, do not ever leave in the middle of a song or performance. Slip out during the clapping or during intermission. If you know you have to leave before the show ends, stand in the back and slip out when you must.

Other than that, feel free to clap and hoot and call out as many “WORK!!!”s as you like. You can even do a “YAAAAAASSSS!” if that is your thing. Queens love good attention and money and drinks. Do not disappoint them—and enjoy the show.

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