Vp Issue 4: “Last Night a Drag King Saved My Life,” by Heywood Wakefield (2003)

IDKE.4, the 4th Annual International Drag King Extravaganza, was held in Columbia, Ohio, October 18-20, 2002. It was with a little trepidation that I decided to go.

IDKE.4, the 4th Annual International Drag King Extravaganza, was held in Columbia, Ohio, October 18-20, 2002. It was with a little trepidation that I decided to go. Would it be full of super-cool Kings alientating the mere spectators? Would a convention of people subverting the prevailing acceptable gender dichotomy inspire me out of my Fall funk? Would there be Drag King sex parties?

(All photos by Angela Jimenez)

As evidenced in the treds exposed at IDKE.4, the Drag Kingdom is growing and expanding. Leather, BDSM, and sub/dom content, as inspired by gay leather boys, are making their way onto the Drag King stage. Femme Queens are claiming their space and defining their roles in the drag world. High quality, politically flavored numbers with a sense of humor, sex appeal and actual acting are supplanting innocuous, albeit polished, male sex-symbol and boy-band impersonations. I found no Trekkies or pretensions, much inspiraion, and yes, there were sex parties. 

Of the two nights of showcases, Saturday evening’s was the highlight, with 28 acts (91 performers total) nd over 700 audience members cheering wildly and throwing money.

There was much variety in the performances, from exquisitely choreographed ensemble dance numbers to dark, death metal dungeon scenes.

The conference wasn’tonly for the young. Mark Martin of Columbus, Ohio, the oldest Drag King at IDKE t 60+ years old, treated us to Rod Stewart. Martin started performing in 1998, after years of watching his partner, Jean, sew and repair dresses for Drag Queens. Another King, Mr. Paul, t 48, has been performing on three continents for 28 years.

Nor was IDKE solely for the Kings. Kentucky Friend Woman and Summer’s Eve, both Femme Queens of the troupe The Disposable Boy Toys of Santa Barbara, wowed the crowd with a sexy BDSM leather number in which the power dynamics kept deliciously switching. Boston’s Princesses of Porn with the Dukes of Dykedom bent gender back and forth (and over), while playing with the top/bottom, butch/femme dichotomy in the vintage burlesque-themed numbers they performed.

One of my favorite numbers exposed the schoolboy fantsty/sex taboo. Stu and Johnny Kingpin dressed in nerdy, schoolboy uniforms, sat in chairs facing the audience, and played a game of flipping the coin. The loser of the toss was required to fulfill dares, from eating off the floor to removing clothing, or allowing the other boy to “touch” him.

It was revealing to talk with the Kigns about how their personal gender identity informed their gender performances and vice versa. Chase Medown is a 24 year old King who grew up in the Midwest. He didn’t have access to support or information on trans issues. Seeing the movie Boys Don’t Cry and starting to perform drag were the catalysts for his transgender exploration and the decision to begin transitioning. 

Carlos Las Vegas, creator, editor, and publisher of the only magazine dedicated to Drag King culture, Kingdom, performed a mesmerizing sword dance with Ken Las Vegas in full traditional costuming. His performance, like many others at IDKE, raised the bar for other Kings in creativity, beauty, and stage skill.

IDKE.4 had a wide array of panels, demos, and discussions. You could learn how to pack (a dick), bind (breasts), or apply facial hair. I buzzed around to a few of the panel discussions which included the politics of gender performance and management of a large drag performance collective, the development of drag personas, and issues of drag and race. 

A plenary was given by Annie Toone, one of the longest performing (23 years) Drag Kings still on the scene, and one of Drag King culture’s champion and chroniclers. The full text can be read at her site. 

One of the highlights of the film festival was from Finland’s Aurora Reinhard. Poikatytto-boygirl is an award-winning documentary of three young, female-bodied people discussing their gender identification. Also on display were photographs by Erin O’Neill, whose images lovingly and beautifully documented Kings with their favorite modes of transportation. 

Sunday morning’s closing brunch event featured intimate spoke word performances, including a gut-wrenchingly powerful drag number about incest, and a preview of Imani Henry’s new multi-media piece “B$T.” It was an intense and emotional end to the Drag King convention.

It is clear that amazing, thought-provoking, intelligent and sexy Drag performance happens, not just on that weekend in Columbus, but continually worldwide. The IDKE website mentions “networking” and “camaraderie,” but, curiously, allusion to the flirting, hot and steamy moments of visual delight, rough house dance floor make-out sessions and group sex in the graveyard were absent. However, since that’s what I found at IDKE.4, I’ll be attending IDKE.5 this year in Minneapolis without trepidation.


Velvetpark Magazine, Issue 4 (Spring 2003), 28-31.