For these LGBTQ performance artists, life is a DRAG – Dancing, Reading, Arte and Ganas
For WellMed trainer Jessica Hawkins, Pride Month represents how far the LBGTQIA community has come in recent years.
“Pride Month is a testament to the hard work from previous generations of LGBTQ,” Hawkins said. “I remember being in high school and friends not being out. Now children are coming out at 13 years old, which used to be unheard of.”
But, there is more work to be done, and for the past two years, Hawkins has been doing her part as a member of Los MENtirosos, a Latinx drag king troupe based in San Antonio, Texas that produces a program called Drag King Bilingual Story Time for children. For the troupe, drag is an acronym for Dancing, Reading, Arte (art) and Ganas (movement and empowerment).
Drag kings are AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) entertainers who present as masculine in their performance art, Hawkins says. Many people are more familiar with drag queens because of television shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race. “Los MENtirosos strive to create visibility for drag kings,” Hawkins said.
The troupe has up to 10 members with about four to six people performing the story time, including Hawkins and her partner of almost 18 years, Giomara Bazaldua. Bazaldua is an insurance examiner at WellMed.
Both Hawkins and Bazaldua are AFAB, and present as female in their daily lives. As drag kings, they present as men; Hawkins as Gacho Marx/Nacho Marx, and Bazaldua as SirGio.
Performing their story time at venues such as The Circle School, Southwest Workers Union, Galeria E.V.A. and at the West Side book festival, Pachanga de Palabras (which translates to “Word Party”), the group went virtual in April 2020 because of COVID-19. Streaming the shows on Facebook Live, the performers stick to a similar format, starting the show by reading one or two books followed by other activities, including a short exercise session (Joyful Movement), singing songs in English and Spanish and a Tool Paquete (Tool Kit) with an interactive craft project that parents are able to pick up beforehand.
There is also a family-friendly drag show with gender non-binary and binary members performing. At live sessions, the kids join the dancing onstage.
Questions are always welcomed.
“A 7-year-old came up to me and asked if I was a boy or girl. I told them, ‘Today I’m both. I have a mustache on, but I probably sound like a girl to you,’ ” Hawkins says. “Kids are pretty good at grasping the pronouns. When we introduce members of the troupe, we talk about how all of us get to pick our own pronouns.”
Online, the performers open the mic so that the kids can speak up.
“They have no problem talking to us,” Hawkins says. “They understand the session and ask anything they want. We encourage that.”
Parents who don’t know how to approach gender identity and pronouns appreciate the programing.
“We encourage them to talk about pronouns and to not bully when they see something unfamiliar,” Hawkins says.
For more information about gender and pronouns, visit lgbtlifecenter.org/pronouns/.