Chicago’s Drag Kings Are Out To Destroy ‘Toxic Masculinity,’ One Sequin And Pelvic Thrust At A Time

By KT Hawbaker
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Janelle Felix, a Chicago-based performer who goes by “Tenderoni,” says “a king is a person of any gender presenting as a male character.” She, like other drag kings, acknowledges this as an incomplete way of viewing this type of entertainment but says it’s a good place to begin.

Chicago Tribune

Switch on the TV. There’s RuPaul critiquing Trixie Mattel’s runway look on VH1’s “Drag Race.”

Get on YouTube. There’s a whole community of queerdos from around the world giving lessons on how to “beat” your face, contoured cheekbones, exaggerated lip liner and all.

Hit up your movie-streaming service of choice. There’s a documentary on Marsha P. Johnson, there’s “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” there’s “Paris Is Burning.” Divine is now so revered that her legacy lives up to her name.

For drag queens, this is quite a time to be alive, and as far as pop culture goes, audiences are living for it.
But, what about drag kings?

In Chicago, there is a community of folks who perform under this increasingly loose umbrella category. During their interviews, the drag kings could often name the other major performers in the city on two hands, it’s a much smaller crew than the drag queen scene. But, like those femme-presenting performers, the city’s drag kings transcend the limits of gender.

Historically, drag kings have been thought of as cisgender women dressing up as cisgender men, but as fluid understandings of gender and sexuality evolve, the male/female binary of drag is fading.

Co-author of “The Drag King Book” and queer scholar Jack Halberstam identified this shift in the 1990s. He writes that the drag king is “a performer who pinpoints and exploits the (often obscured) theatricality of masculinity.”

Janelle Felix, a Chicago-based performer who goes by “Tenderoni,” says “a king is a person of any gender presenting as a male character.” She, like other drag kings, acknowledges this as an incomplete way of viewing this type of entertainment but says it’s a good place to begin.

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