Under The Wig with TeTe Bang: AFAB queens and the drag community hierarchy
8 June 2021, 17:40 | Updated: 28 June 2021, 12:29
"There is a hierarchy in the community, whether we like to admit it or not"
For Pride month, PopBuzz is going 'Under The Wig' with drag queen Yshee Black to chat with four very different - but equally iconic - drag artists to explore the UK drag scene.
In our second episode, Yshee meets London drag icon TeTe Bang to lift the lid on the unspoken hierarchy within the drag community, why some people seem to be obsessed with the genitals of AFAB queens (that's 'assigned female at birth', in case you were wondering), and the importance of being visibly queer as a drag artist.
In the excerpt below, Yshee Black and TeTe discuss their misconceptions about drag when they first started out, the hierarchy in the drag community and the hostile environment AFAB performers can experience from some gay men in bars and clubs.
Head over to YouTube channel and switch on notifications to get the next episode of Under The Wig next week.
YSHEE BLACK: Did you have any misconceptions about drag when you were starting out?
TETE BANG: I didn't have any preconceived ideas, which was probably the misconception. Like, I didn't know anything. I didn't go out being like 'I want to be a drag queen', I just used to go out to queer spaces and I like dressing up. Dress up and go to a club and you might get in for free. Maybe you'll get some drinks tokens. You can go out for no money at all. So I didn't go out being like 'I want to be a drag queen', I went out being like, 'I want to be in a queer space, surrounded by people where we can all dress up and have a lovely time'. It wasn't until people started calling me a drag queen that I was like, okay, well, if we have to put a label on it, we're going to put a label on it. Fine. But I didn't realise there was so much politics to drag. And I think maybe a lot people don't realise how much politics there actually is within the [drag] space in general. They think like, we're all best friends and we all think the same. And actually, it's way more complicated than that.
YSHEE: There's this whole ecosystem - still - of 'what is drag?' And people [want] to really define it. What do you think about that whole system and entering that space?
TETE: I think, especially as a queer woman, you have to be more cautious. Don't just think that every gay man is gonna welcome you into that space because that's not necessarily true. You know, the idea of having a gay best friend is not as fabulous as maybe movies might have told you it was. Maybe all those gay bars you want to go to [to] feel your own fantasy, maybe they're not going to be as welcoming as you expect them to be. And you do have to be quite strong in yourself when entering those spaces. Don't just expect everybody to love you. It's like going into any space.
The politics of the community, there is a hierarchy in the community, whether we like to admit it or not. We're trying to deconstruct the patriarchy but sometimes the patriarchy is still there.
YSHEE: It's about acknowledging it, isn't it? And even in the queer community, people have a hard time actually acknowledging that.
TETE: Absolutely. And so just go in cautiously. It's not all fun and games. I mean, loads of it is fun and games, but yeah, there's a lot more to it. In every industry there is a hierarchy, and that's just how it is. It's been like systematically brainwashed into us and sometimes really subconsciously. And so yeah, there's a lot more acknowledging we can do as a community.
YSHEE: Terminology moves so fast. And so we've had bio queens, AFAB queens, I just want to know how would you define yourself?
TETE: I just defined myself as a queer queen. You know, I'm queer. This is what it is. If you feel the need to talk about my genitals - which, like, why are you so obsessed with my genitals, you creep - but that's what I don't mind being used towards me. Everybody's different. Just like pronouns, just like asking for someone's name, just ask them. I feel like queer is how I identify. It's where I feel my most self.
Quotes have been shortened for clarity and brevity.