Growing up, we are all taught the basics of everyday etiquette: say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’; chew with your mouth closed; hold the door for the person behind you, and so forth. Drag show etiquette, of course, was never included in those teachings, and it’s something many people never learn until they are six tequila shots down at some gay bar, being read for filth by a queen for trying to climb on stage… Believe us, it happens more often than you think.
As with any performance space or social setting, drag shows come with a few unspoken rules everyone should follow, which can be a little intimidating for first-time attendees. But fear not, we’ve got you covered with this fool-proof guide to drag show etiquette – put together with the help of two of the fiercest Thai queens.
Hands off the queen
Drag queens are not animals in a zoo enclosure or interactive exhibits in a museum – they are performers, and first and foremost, people. The last thing any drag queen needs is some tipsy bachelorette putting their hands all over their expensive wig or stroking the rhinestones on their face, screaming “My best friend is gay” in their ear.
It’s important to be respectful and mindful of personal boundaries, so please do not initiate non-consensual physical contact with drag performers – or anyone, for that matter. Admire with your eyes, not your hands.
You are not the performer
Would you waltz onto the stage at a theatre production or ballet show? Probably not, right? No shade, but people do not attend drag shows to see you perform, they come for the queens. It is good practice to not enter the performance space when a queen is performing unless you are invited.
A global force of drag artistry – Pattaya Hart is a trailblazing Bangkok-born queen living in ‘The Big Apple’ with a candid perspective on the matter: “Do not get up on stage during performances,” she says, “You wouldn’t like it either if someone came to your workplace and started acting extra and being in your personal space.”
A drag show is a queer space
Let us repeat that: a drag show is a queer space. It’s not the space for cis-gendered straight people to heckle, mock, harass, or poke fun at queer people who are minding their own business and having a good time. A drag performer’s lashes may be thick, and the lights may be bright, but she can easily spot a guest who hasn’t shown up with good intentions.
On the contrary, if you are someone who is supportive and accepting of queer people; welcome and enjoy the show!
Don’t forget to tip
If a queen is lip-syncing and dancing like the rent is due, it’s likely because the rent is actually due. It is customary to give drag performers cash tips during the performance, and it doesn’t have to be a lot (unless you want to of course!) – just a little something to show your appreciation.
“Just enjoy the show! Give us energy and you’ll get it back ten times over… and most importantly, tip us,” says Gawdland, a talented upcoming drag performer in Bangkok. Despite having only been in the industry for a year, she is already making big waves in the city.
The importance of tipping cannot be overstated. Tips allow performers and artists like Gawdland and Pattaya Hart to continue to create, entertain, and inspire.
Stop comparing the queens
The cliche that cattiness prevails in the drag community is an outdated stereotype. RuPaul’s Drag Race might make it seems like drag queens are always at each other’s throats – and we absolutely live for it of course – but in reality that’s usually not the case.
“You don’t have to put other performers down in order to give a certain performer a compliment,” says Pattaya Hart, “we are all beautiful and talented individuals, so there is no need to compare or pitch us against each other.”
Drag entertainment offers something unique that is hard to come by: a space to unapologetically be yourself. Drag will chew up everything you considered to be ‘normal’, digest it, spit it back out, and reconstruct it in the most bizarre, campy, and entertaining way possible. Embrace it, and you will have the time of your life!
Now that you know the ins and outs of drag show etiquette, we recommend you check out the iconic House of Heals in Bangkok for a night of glitz, glamour, and drag-filled bonanza!