Slaying Gender Episode 1 – Brigitte Bandit

Men, women, adults, children, cisgender people, transgender people, queer, straight… Whoever we are and however we identify, we all have a gender expression. But right-wing extremists continue to launch attack after attack on our LGBTQIA+ community — specifically transgender people and drag performers — simply because they are expressing and presenting themselves differently than the GOP’s narrow, hateful lens would like.

With our Slaying Gender series, we’re featuring voices from Texas’ diverse transgender and drag communities. Watch episode 1 with Austin-based drag performer Brigitte Bandit below!

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Brigitte Bandit | Luna Karr | Travis Randy Travis | Ryan

Interview Transcript

The very first time I ever tried out for a Baby Queen competition, they sent me home. They were like, “No, you’re not even getting into the competition. You’re going home.” And look at me now, you know? 

My name is Brigitte Bandit, and my pronouns in drag are she/her. I’ve been performing for about four-and-a-half years. I’m based here in Austin, Texas.

How do you identify? How does this shape your viewpoint of the world? 

I’m non-binary. How does that shape my view of the world? I think that as a non-binary person, you kind of get a better understanding of the gender binary and how gender is socially constructed. 

What does drag mean to you?

Drag is, like, obviously just so much fun. I just have fun doing drag, and yeah, I love the people that I meet doing drag. And it’s allowed me to be who I am and know who I am to my full extent of existence and stuff.

You know, being able to exist outside of like this heteronormative, cisgender-normative society is so freeing, and being able to find community outside of that too, and get to know all different kinds of perspectives and people is really empowering and fun. Being a drag queen is kind of like — is almost inherently political, especially here in the United States. And you look at, like, the decades of the queer people who have come before us and drag performers who have come before us and how they have made change and stuff. So as a drag performer, it’s important for me to take the power that I have as a community leader and take it not only from the drag show, but to the Capitol.

And it’s so amazing to see our community there as well and like be surrounded and uplifted all together and supporting each other and protecting each other. It’s so important when we’re together.

What motivates you to be outwardly politically active?

Well, I think I’ve just always been politically active. I mean, ever since I was a teenager. Like, I went to my very first protest by myself at 19 years old. I didn’t have anybody to go with. So I just went because it’s just been important to me. So I think I’ve just kind of always been politically active, and now as like a drag performer and a drag queen who, like, has found so much freedom in my community, it’s important for me to protect my community.

And I’ve been following all of these attacks on drag and the queer community for a while. So whenever I saw that it was my opportunity to go speak, I needed to go do it. You know, there was just like no question in my mind. It wasn’t, like, a decision. It was just like I had to. It wasn’t “Will I do it, will I not?” It was, “Duh, I’m gonna be there.” You know? 

“Whenever I saw that it was my opportunity to go speak, I needed to go do it. You know, there was just like no question in my mind. It wasn’t, like, a decision. It was just like I had to. It wasn’t ‘Will I do it, will I not?’ It was, ‘Duh, I’m gonna be there.'”
What are some of your favorite queer events and spaces?

My favorite events and spaces — I don’t know. I think like any drag show I put together, right? I love hosting drag shows. I think drag shows are so powerful. Obviously, that’s why we’re being attacked so much. But I mean, any drag show that I put on. I do Neon Rainbows here at Cheer Up Charlies every month, which is like a queer country night. So it’s kind of fun to take, like, this idea of like what it is to be “country,” which is normally… you know, all of the queerness of cowboy culture and stuff has kind of been, like, washed away. But cowboys have always been gay! You know, like, I don’t know. Yeah. I think just like my shows in general. 

What would you say to the lawmakers that insist on attacking queer spaces?

Well, I think that, you know, the people who are putting these laws together don’t know what they’re talking about. They’ve never been to a drag show before. They clearly have misconceived perceptions of what drag is and what we do. So I would say, you know, in the most respectful way that you can, go to a drag show, and see who we are and, like, have fun. Like, I feel like if you actually saw what a drag queen story time is, you wouldn’t be sitting there talking about it and wasting our time and tax dollars on stuff like that, you know? But you know, ultimately what good would that actually do because we know it’s not actually about drag, you know? So it’s kind of hard.

What would I say to them? I would hope that they would be able to see me as a person and not just a scapegoat for their issues and other problems, and know that I am somebody’s kid, I’m somebody’s sister, I have friends, I have family, I have community. And y’all aren’t seeing queer people as people. And it’s sad, you know? And I’m born and raised right here in Texas. You know? I belong here, and we belong here. 

How many pairs of boobs do you have?

How many pairs of boobs? Like, intact or cut up? [laughs] I think I have, like, three, four pairs. I have my big ones. I have my regular ones. I have my regular ones that have some glue on the nips for whenever I need to do, like, a pasty moment, okay? Because we don’t want crusty nips And then I have my very original set of titties, my very first ones, they have not failed me.

And then I probably have like three or four cut-up ones that I want to do something with, I’m holding them, make a big titties scarf or something. I don’t know! [laughs]

You have become well-known for your drag story times, could you elaborate on that experience?

It’s fun. I mean, like, I never asked to be around kids as a performer. You know, it’s so funny because, like, one of the main talking points is like, “Why do they even want to be around kids?” People want us to be around kids! It’s not like people get into drag, do drag, because they’re trying to like, find some insidious way to be around children. That is just, like, such a wild concept to me. Like, I’m literally hired to do these events, you know? 

And my first couple of times around kids, I was honestly very surprised at how much kids loved it. Like they just love it! Whenever I did KUTX Rock the Park, they were just following me around everywhere, like I was some kind of Disney princess or something. I thought I was going to trip over them while I was performing. I was scared. I was nervous! It was just a sea of children all around me! 

Because they don’t see anything more than just like, well, somebody dressed up and colorful and fun, like I said, like a Disney princess or a clown, you know? You know, like, kids just love it. It’s so much fun for them. And it’s fun for me to see kids enjoy it so much and be able to see people express themselves in ways that you wouldn’t, you don’t see on a daily basis. You know, I think that’s exciting to them. The way the kids come up to you. They’re just like [in awe], you know, they just love it. It’s so cute. Like, um, yeah, I don’t — there’s really nothing to be scared of about it. You know? 

You have to teach that fear and teach that hate. And I think that’s clear whenever you have drag queens around kids, because kids are just drawn to how fun I look. You know, how pink I am. You know, like, that’s just fun to them. And you have to teach them to hate that kind of thing.

“You have to teach that fear and teach that hate. And I think that’s clear whenever you have drag queens around kids, because kids are just drawn to how fun I look. You know, how pink I am. You know, like, that’s just fun to them. And you have to teach them to hate that kind of thing.”
You host one of the only non-competitive newbie drag shows in Austin, what inspired that idea?

Honestly, it was whenever I went to go do Bushwig in New York, and I was on my way back and I was doing kind of like a little Q&A on my Instagram feed while I was waiting for my flight back. And somehow we got to, like, should I host an open drag night? And what would that look like? Because a lot of open drag nights here in Austin are competitive, and basically, like, the winner gets $100. So you have all these performers go in and only one person gets $100. And it’s only based on like, how many friends are in the audience cheering for them or something like that.

I’m somebody who has never won anything [laughs]. And so competitions, I haven’t found success in competitive spaces. And I’m like: How do we uplift performers who wouldn’t succeed in those spaces but are still just as important and valid as, like, myself, You know, like, how do I give baby performers that opportunity? And also how do I compensate all of them? Because I think compensation is important whenever you’re putting on a show and stuff. Obviously, like I can’t get a budget to pay 20 performers, so they get professional photography by Scam Likely. So each performer gets professional photos done, they get portraits done of their drag, which is helpful whenever they do actually get booked and they need to turn in a promo for the fliers and stuff, like that’s so important. And then they also get photography of them performing, which helps promote themselves. So that was like an idea. A part of it was like, How do I compensate all the performers? Okay, photography. And then yeah, and then just have it be an open drag stage where you can just do whatever you want to and have fun and not feel this pressure to be better than anybody else, but just be true to who you are and what you want to present and what you want photographed, you know?

What was it like entering drag as an AFAB queen?

Yeah, it was a little nerve-wracking because I felt like, you know, some people weren’t going to get it, and some people didn’t get it. But I had to just arm myself with as much knowledge and confidence as I could and keep doing it. And there were people who validated me and I just had to focus on those kind of people who understood who I was and what I was doing and ignore anybody who didn’t get it.

[Excerpt from Brigitte’s TikTok] Comments like this are so funny to me because I’m actually AFAB. I’m assigned female at birth, like born female. Yeah, You’re assuming that I’m a dude because I’m in drag and I have extravagant makeup on. You’re literally proving that gender is socially constructed, and the joke’s on you. 

But I think that because I’m an AFAB performer and I had to validate myself, I had to learn so much to make sure that I was confident and to make sure that what I was doing was valid and right, and I wasn’t intruding on a space that wasn’t right for me or whatnot, you know, as like, these other people like to argue. And so I think that’s kind of helped me to this point. Whenever I do talk about drag, and what drag is, and these kind of issues, like in the legislature or whatever, because I’ve had to validate myself. I know so much about drag that I can talk about it in ways that maybe other queens don’t, you know, or aren’t able to. 

What would you say to Dolly Parton?

Yeah, I think I wouldn’t know what to say. I would just be like… I would, just, I think I would just start crying! I think I would just thank her for showing the kind of grace she does whenever she is being misunderstood, you know, or perceived in a way that isn’t right for who she actually is or whatnot.

Dolly handles things with such grace, and confidence, and humor, and that’s what we can all use right now. You know? So I really don’t know what you’d say to somebody like that. Like, I don’t know if I could ever express, like, the impact that she’s had on my life. Like, literally, Dolly Parton pays my bills, you know, like, if it wasn’t for Dolly Parton, what would I be doing? You know, because half of the time I’m impersonating her. 

So if I ever saw Dolly, I would just thank her for that. I’ve watched so many of our interviews over and over, and she’s really taught me how to deal with all this kind of stuff that I am right now.

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