While Chennai and Tamil Nadu are much ahead of most other Indian cities and states, in terms of activities held by the LGBT community, right from film festivals to marches and more, that eventually create sensitivity, visibility and acceptability in the mainstream, somewhere between its gaga over filter coffee and techie geeks, the city has so far missed out on the vibrancy of drag shows. So, what exactly is drag, you may ask. Drag is a creative vent, a form of self-exploration and expression. It includes individuals in dresses (often to imitate various famous opposite sex singers or personalities), indulging in slut walking, humour, glitter, rainbows and some serious citric jokes. Bringing this colourful celebration to the city for the first time in an exclusive show is Jabez Kelly. “We see drag as a healthy discourse that gay, gender non-conforming and gender-vibrant people perform and blur gender lines. The main idea is to break the rules that have been written by the society – right from how a man is ‘supposed’ to dress to how a woman is ‘allowed’ to walk,” says Jabez, whose drag name is Gabrielle Jasmine Marquez.
Gabrielle J Marquez describes himself as a dude in a wig who loves music as much as biriyani. “I’ve been a drag artist full-time since January. I got to perform at the Chennai Rainbow Film Festival earlier this year and my life has changed completely since then. I’m invited to private shows to host and entertain. That’s how I make a living now,” says Jabez, who will be performing with two others at the event which will be held on May 20 at the Backyard, Adyar. “Getting the venue was the biggest challenge. Some even said they didn’t want to spoil their ‘reputation’ by hosting an event like this. However, the guys at Backyard have been very supportive,” adds Jabez.
You would also witness Fatty Bao with her uncompromising wit and humour, and Miss Roxie Marquez, her amazing songs and dance. For Fatty Bao (drag name), an IT professional, it’s his first time on stage as a drag queen. “I have been aware of drag in general for over two years now, and it was initially a very intimidating thing to me. But eventually, it did emerge to be this fun way to make a statement that what one wears is one’s own business, and that’s all. I chose my name because I am not a stereotypical fit man. I love food, and hence it shows on my body! So, I decided to embrace my larger body in my name, and the love of my life, bao (or all food in general!) It is my debut performance in ‘drag’, and my aesthetic is literally a hairy man defying the acceptable gender rules. As a debutant, I am scared that I’ll hear the crickets croaking, or people snoring during my performance! It’s scary and exciting at the same time,” adds Fatty Bao.
What’s more, there’s music, grooving, roast, food, and comedy, bashing up gender stereotypes and discrimination. “So, straight or gay, gender conforming or not, this drag show is sure to bring you a new dimension of this city’s idea of gay culture,” finishes Jazbez.