Emily Yoffe’s stint as a drag king

“My Short Life as a Drag King,” Emily Yoffe, Slate – click through to watch the video as well of Emily performing as “Johnson Manly” (via Feministing)

I was familiar with drag queens—men who dress flamboyantly as women for shows or events, but I wasn’t aware of a complementary drag king culture until a Slate colleague suggested I enter it. I quickly found the D.C. Kings, founded in 2000, which bills itself as “The World’s Longest Running Drag King Troupe.” The first thing that struck me when looking at their Web site was that drag kings are nice girls. “[W]e are extremely supportive of one another,” they promised. “We are here for you and we want you to have fun.”

Their shows—consisting of 10 individual or paired-up performers lip syncing to popular songs—occur twice a month. To get on the roster, all I had to do was attend their monthly meeting. There were about 18 of us, a mixed-race group mostly in their 20s and 30s. Some were feminine-looking women with long hair and makeup. Some were clearly female but with short haircuts and mannish clothes. Some just looked like men.

The meeting was run by the troupe’s founder, Ken Vegas, 34, a graphic designer whose real name is Kendra Kuliga. Ken (I will refer to people by their preferred names and pronouns—usually male) began the meeting by suggesting we all introduce ourselves by giving our names, astrological signs, and packing preferences. This last item does not mean Styrofoam versus bubble wrap, but what kings like to put in their pants as a simulated phallus. The answers ranged from socks, to Mr. Bendy, to half an apple.

At the meeting, Herbie, 23, volunteered to be my guide. He is stout, has a blond crew cut, and describes himself as a “non-op female-body transgender person”—essentially a lesbian who identifies as a male but is not doing anything surgically about it. Each day, he packs and wears what’s known as a compression shirt to bind his breasts. “I call it ‘manning up,’ ” he explained.

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