Drag can be a way to embody and explore different personas and identities. One can use the process of transformation to explore gender dysphoria and experience gender euphoria.

Using a complete but temporary visual transformation to explore identity can be therapeutic for some.

Join us in a conversation with drag artist King Jay Crimson as we talk about identity, their experience of the therapeutic effect of drag and their performance for Endless Pride.

E: We’re excited about your performance for Endless Pride. It’s heartfelt and very moving. Can you talk a bit about it?

K: The performance itself was actually kind of nerve wracking to make. I was going back and forth on whether or not I should go public with this. How are people going to react to it? Any type of coming out video is always going to be terrifying. I was heavily encouraged to do it by my friends, my (chosen) family, and by the (Ojibwe) Nation. It was something that I wanted to do for a while, and it was quite therapeutic for me.

E: What inspired your performance?

K: I guess I was inspired to make it because it was Mother’s Day and I have no connection with my biological family, my mom or my dad, anymore. When I first came out as part of the LGBTQ community, I was immediately ousted and we don’t talk anymore. My mom is a very devout Christian and said some pretty terrible things. I originally wanted to make some sort of response to my parents. And then I never did it and it kind of morphed into something else later. When the Nation adopted me, it turned into this beautiful kind of coming into my own. So it was this experience of my parents going away, and being with my new family now.

E: You had a fairly rough time dealing with your family.

K: Unfortunately it’s very common to experience trauma when it comes to folks within the queer community. We deal with it way too much. I like the idea of using my story and using my trauma to help other people. Hopefully I can make relatable content and help people feel some sense of comfort in that.

E: How do you think your artistic practice has helped you?

K: The video was really cathartic to make. Drag for me is a huge therapy thing. It helped me realize that I was trans masculine. It helped me realize a lot of the issues that I needed to work out myself. It helped me realize who I want to be. It’s become a transformative therapy tool for me. I highly encourage people to try drag at least once.

E: Tell me a bit about yourself.

K: Usually when people ask me that, my brain goes poof and I don’t know what to say. I’m two spirits from the Ojibwe Nation. I identify as trans masculine. I’ve always been an artistic person. I grew up in Canada, but I’m moving to West Virginia at the end of the month. My partner is there. I’ve seen some very beautiful photos and I’m excited to explore it. I like to sing. I’m just an overall weird, nerdy person I guess.

E: How did you end up becoming part of the Ojibwe Nation?

R: I’ve always connected with native culture and imagery. Growing up in a very white and, unfortunately, racist household, I had no way to properly explore and learn anything about that. I became very close friends with someone who was a part of the Nation. They ended up becoming my partner, but they weren’t at the time. Being adopted just happened organically. People said we’ve adopted you now, we claim you. It’s not something you can aspire to do.

E: Can you talk a bit about your trans community?

K: Because of the pandemic, I’ve connected with people online, so I have a good network of friends who are trans and non binary through my social networks, but not so much physically yet.

E: How do you share your art and connect online? Where can folks find you?

K: So as far as drag is concerned, I do a lot on social media. I’m on TikTok, Instagram, and also Twitch. I do makeup tutorials, videos, and connect with people to play video games and chat about life, things I stand for, who I am.

E: How did you learn to do your makeup?

K: I do my own makeup and learned through trial and error, black magic, I don’t know. I used to hate makeup before I came out as trans. I was one of those girls who just hated makeup Then I came out and got hit with all the toxic masculinity, and I thought, this is stupid. When I started doing drag, I picked it up really quickly. I could never do fem makeup, but masculine makeup, I can do that. I just kept practicing. I did makeup every day for 100 days straight to practice, and now I do it four to five days a week so I keep the skills. People can watch how I do makeup on my Twitch channel.

E: Do you perform in clubs?

K: There aren’t many clubs in my area doing drag, and those that do, only do queens. I’m moving to West Virginia and I’ll be performing at the Lodge in Maryland starting in September.

E: It seems like there aren’t enough venues for drag Kings.

K: It’s true. As much as we love that RuPaul mainstreamed drag for us, they really only mainstreamed the Ru Girl style of queens and that’s it. If you ask who’s your favorite drag king, the only one that people may know is Landon Cider. There are so many other amazing kings out there and other drag artists who do so many different things, creatures, clowns, whatever you can imagine. It’s not just queens.

E: We’re excited to have kings like you, Vera, and King Baba Moon for Endless Pride as well as drag creatures.

K: I love Baba Moon, they’re one of my favorite artists. I love them so much!

E: It’s been fun chatting with you. Do you have a message you’d like to share with our queer community?

K: Don’t give up, no matter how hard it is, no matter how much you want to. Although I hate the toxic positive, it does get better and it will get better. And there are people out there who are rooting for you, you’ve just got to find them. And there are people out there who want to help you. You just have to find them. And if you don’t know any of those people, then message me.

Ընտանիք/Entanik is a chosen family of queer Armenians, other SWANA folks, and allies dedicated to coming together in inclusive unity.