The history of drag culture dates back to the 1880s in the African American community, the title of the first drag queen is credited to William Dorsey Swann, an African American man born into slavery who was constantly persecuted for his activities throughout his life.
Drag queens try to strengthen the voice of the oppressed and create an unforgettable spectacle with “characteristic” hairstyles, makeup, clothes and various dance or musical numbers for the opposite sex. Drag brought more people together from the 1950s and 1960s, and RuPaul’s Show brought the Queens from the underground into popular culture.
Organized by Tbilisi Pride and the initiative group (Gyorgi Cheminava, Vato Kerdzaia, Davit Gogishvili, Matt Shally), a few months ago, the first large-scale series of The Drag Ball started at Club Mtkvari in Tbilisi, where Georgian drag queens try to charm the audience and the jury with various spectacular shows.
“After the very first show of the Georgian Drag Ball, I had a question, what will be next?” What should I do now? I have a feeling that something important has happened, as if progress has begun that will not stop. The spark cannot be extinguished easily, it will grow bigger and may turn into a fire. Recently, I had the feeling that I stopped developing. As soon as I started being a drag queen, I didn’t stop, I think I’m flying”, says the 21-year-old Georgian drag queen, Pusseidon, who is the winner of the third night of Drag ball.
Here is Pusseidon’s story:
Drag culture and the power that transformation gave me
I made the decision to become a drag queen three years ago. Back then, drag wasn’t as big as it is today, I always attended and cheered on the small shows of other Georgian queens, which were held at the Success bar, and then I had a desire to participate, although the pandemic prevented me from fulfilling this desire. Finally, I got my wish at the ball organized by Tbilisi Pride and the initiative group in March.
Drag for me, first and foremost, is art and power, also it is an opportunity to transform and be whomever I want to be. This chance of transformation gives me power and confidence. I have been interested in music, performance art and make-up since childhood. Drag gave me the opportunity to unite all my interests in one and become a part of Georgian queer culture.
Pusseidon’s birth and the limits I’m trying to break
When I decided to become a drag queen and join the ball, the first task was to come up with a name. I identify as non-binary, I can feel masculine and feminine energies at the same time during the day, and I like the combination of these two seemingly opposite energies. That’s where my drag name Pusseidon comes from. I thought about it for a week and finally it dawned on me that this name represents exactly what I want to say as a drag queen. In my name, Pussy refers to the female genitals, the organ that gives birth to life, and Poseidon as the god of the sea, from whom comes great masculine power. The idea hit me like lightning and I started screaming. I immediately realized that it was exactly what I wanted.
I believe that drag has no boundaries, my shows are mainly made of metal genre music, I have never seen a drag queen doing shows in this direction, On my first performance I was a bearded queen, I wanted to say something new in the drag scene with this. Even though the queer community has the least boundaries, unfortunately there are still stereotypes we conform to. It’s the same in drag, as if to be a drag queen, you can’t have a beard, you have to put on shows to the compositions of specific artists, you have to look like a woman, etc. I want my drag to be a march against these boundaries. I want to say a new word in the history of drag.
Drag that doesn’t just stay on stage
The main inspiration, you could say, is the part of me that I have imagined all my life, the part that has always been hidden, my inspiration are the dreams that are not easy to realize in our reality. Pusseidon allows me to be who I’ve always wanted to be – strong, independent, spectacular, joyful. In my drag, I always try to embody all of this and in this way enhance my real self, because drag is not only on stage, drag helps us to be as bold, strong and courageous in life as when we put on makeup, wig and step on stage.
My favorite queen is Gerylin Stone, a Georgian queen whom I have known for years and during this time she helps me a lot, gives me the right notes, advice, I grow up with her and sometimes I joke that she is my aunt. Their possibilities are endless.
Unity created by Georgian drag queens
At the first rehearsal of the first ball, I was very shy, I sat alone in the corner, I didn’t make a sound, but the atmosphere was so pleasant that after a few rehearsals I managed to make friends with everyone. It’s a fun process, but very exhausting, both physically and emotionally, and what made my situation more difficult was that I was standing on heels for the first time and immediately started dancing, not even walking.
Sometimes the rehearsals go on for hours, we leave rehearsals at five in the morning, and most of the Queens, including myself, work at other jobs, and sometimes it’s incredibly difficult for me to combine the two, but the love I get from the other Queens and the organizers overpowers exhaustion. We are one family, one house and this is the most precious thing for me.
Even after the rehearsals, we go together all the time, spend time together, strengthen each other and stand by each other. After the dress rehearsal of the first ball, I was so tired that on the night of the ball, I had a panic attack and cried on stage, although the tears went great with the show (laughs), but I was so destroyed.
The future of Georgian drag and advice for those who want to do drag
Drag existed in Georgia earlier, but what is happening now is a whole new level. All of this is happening thanks to Georgian drag queens and the drag ball. It feels like we solidified the fact that drag will inevitably become a part of Georgian culture. I think that this step and our work will definitely leave a mark on the Georgian queer and not only queer culture.
If you want to be a part of drag culture and you can’t take that step, my advice would be to forget everything and just do it. Forget the femininity complex, I know it’s not easy to overcome, especially in a society where femininity is associated with weakness. Don’t fear the norms, break the prevailing rules and do what you want. We need to get past the internal struggles, we need to stop shaming ourselves and each other about our dreams and do what we really want to do.
Being involved in drag culture changed my life completely, it gave me a lot of confidence, I am bold in a different way, I feel a different power, I started to claim that I have more rights than I am given, I am more than I have seen before. I think that nothing is impossible anymore, many supporters suddenly appeared in my life, who gave me love, friendship, strength. I think that’s reason enough to rise above our complexes and do what we really want.
Author of photos: Kerosene on ice