Drag Outside of the ‘Cistem’

2 min read
Thomas Trombetta

For the second edition of our newsletter, the Freddie team sat down with trans performer, Imani Khalifa, to discuss some of the stereotypes about the drag scene, as well as the issues one might face not fitting into the cisgender norm.

How did you start exploring drag and performance?

I started doing drag after I was casted in my high school as Angel from Rent. Shortly after that role I found myself in love with the way it made me feel. It helped me take back my power and brought a sense of pride to who I was.

How does your identity play a role in your drag?

My identity places a huge role in my drag seeing that I took everything the world made me feel small about and used that to heal those wounds and plant seeds of validation and love.

What challenges have risen from the traditional cis-normative perception of drag?

I’ve definitely had challenges with drag due to traditional cis-normative perceptions. Mostly being invalidated in my identity, from people who see drag queens as cis-men dressing up as a woman and seeing it as an illusion. Or people who just assume I’m male presenting because I’m a drag queen. Perceptions like that alienate trans and non-binary people and makes it harder for us to feel comfortable and seen in a lot of spaces.

What message do you have for other trans and non-binary artists and performers?

A message I have for other trans and non binary artists is to take up as much space and that we’re valid no matter what. To listen.

Many people see drag queens as cis-men dressing up as a woman... as no more than an illusion.

If you’d like to learn more, you can check out Imani on Instagram!

Written by:
Thomas Trombetta

Thomas is passionate about gender and sexuality liberation social movements. Before beginning his work with Freddie, Thomas studied Sociology and Global & Development Studies at the University of Alberta, after which he began working with marginalized communities. In previous roles, Thomas was involved in queer and trans health education, PrEP health promotion, community-based research, HIV education, and LGBTQ2S+ advocacy.