Slaying Gender Episode 4 – Ryan

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 4 with Austin-based drag performer Ryan below!

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Brigitte Bandit | Luna Karr | Travis Randy Travis | Ryan

Interview Transcript

My name is Ryan. My full name is Ryan Velasquez, but it’s still a part of my drag name. So I’m just — I go by Ryan, and my pronouns are she/her or she/they. I am a trans woman, but I also still have a part of a non-binary identity, a part of me, I guess you could say so, yes. She/her, she/they. 

I am based here in Austin, but I’m originally from the Rio Grande Valley, which is 5 hours away from here, which is really far. Not very open to, I guess, gender self-expression and, you know, different gender identities. So, you know, coming here to Austin was just like a big, like, whirlwind and a big eye-opener to, like, all these possibilities and all these different people.

How do you identify, and how does this shape your viewpoint on the world?

So I recently came out as a trans woman and I’ve always known I was trans, ever since I was little, ever since I was playing with dolls and, you know, wanting to be in girl clothes and having girlfriends, you know. But I feel like I just suppressed it for so many years and lied to myself for so many years, which is like a normal thing to do, you know, when you have all these different fears and anxieties that are like suppressing you. 

When I came to college and I came here to Austin, that’s when I started thinking like, maybe I should play around with gender, you know, and, like, experiment. I would start dressing more feminine or start wearing makeup. And then that’s when I discovered drag at UT with, like, the Dobie shows. So that like opened a whole new world for me. And I was like, “Wow, like, you can express yourself, like your performance and express your gender? Like, that’s amazing!” Like, I was never able to do that for like 18 years, you know? 

Like, look where I am now. Like, I’m a fully realized woman. And like, I know who I am. I know what I’m here to do on this earth. And that’s to, you know, spread love and love like a woman. So I had a lot of unlearning to do. And like now that I am a queer trans woman who’s also non-binary at the same time, like, I have like such an open mind now and I feel like I like I don’t judge others anymore. I welcome everyone with, like, open arms. As a trans woman, like I have such an open mind now and I’m glad that I know the things that I do, and I’m glad that, you know, I have good right morals, you know, and I just want like the best for everyone and the best for our country and for our trans people in our country and for other queer folk in this country.

What does drag and its community mean to you?

Drag and its community is like a second family to me. That’s my chosen family. Honestly. Because when I came here to college and I was a freshman and I discovered, like, the Dobie drag shows, that’s where I met Celia Light who is my drag grandmother, and I met, you know, HARLÓT who is my drag mother, who’s she like adopted me, you know? And like, I met all these other amazing drag performers who I consider family now, you know? Who are — I hate to say it, but at this point in my life, I feel like I’m closer to them than to my actual family, because even my family now, even though I love them and I have a special place for them in my heart and I care deeply about them, it’s really hard because they just… they’re stubborn. It’s really frustrating. It’s really a hard thing to deal with. And I’m still dealing with right now. So that’s why I, like I confide in my drag family and like my drag sisters and drag trans sisters, you know, and I ask them for advice because they are going or have been through the same thing as me.

Just, drag means so much to me right now. It’s just such a great way as …. it’s such a great way to express myself and it’s such a great way of therapy for myself. I love to perform. You know, I did musical theater in high school, so I was a theater nerd.

Drag is fun. Drag is positive. Drag is — it’s love. It’s really love. That’s all it is, you know, nothing bad, like, no discrimination, like, no judgment, just, like, freedom of expression.

“Drag is fun. Drag is positive. Drag is — it’s love. It’s really love. That’s all it is, you know, nothing bad, like, no discrimination, like, no judgment, just,, like freedom of expression.”
How long have you been performing in queer spaces?

So I guess I’ve been doing drag for two-and-a-half, almost three years now, which is like, crazy, because it feels like it was just yesterday that I literally started and I had like oatmeal brows, you know what I mean? But when I was in high school, I obviously had a lot of love for theater and musical theater. And then I got introduced to theatrical makeup. And I, I love, like, the idea of being able to transform your face, you know, and into any character or to like any person. I was really into art as well. And like, drawing and painting and drawing people. So I loved studying the face and like just all that kind of stuff fascinated me so much. 

And at the same time, I was dealing with like a lot of internal homophobia, but still like, let myself, like, have my guilty pleasure. So I did watch Drag Race, like in high school. I did know about it. I did know what drag was. And like, I always, like, saw myself, like performing in drag. Like I thought it was such a fun idea and such a fun way of, like, self-expression. And then that’s when I got to college and that’s when I found out about the Dobie shows. I sent a message to Celia Celia Light And I was like, “Hey, like, is it okay if I could like, spotlight for the show, for the Dobie show? Like, do you need more performers? You know, like, I just want to, like, get more experience, you know, and I want to try it out.” And she was like, so welcoming and she was like, “Of course.” And it was really cute and really fun and really exhilarating. I guess that’s the word. 

And like, like I said earlier, it was like a big relief. Just to get all of that energy and all that, like, frustration at the same time out of me and put it into performance. It was such, like, a great experience for me, and also to perform, and also make people smile, make people laugh, and, like, cheer and see all their, like, smiling faces. like, it feels so rewarding. And I just love making people happy. I love making people laugh. I love to entertain. Like, it’s just like I realized it’s, like, a big passion of mine.

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

That’s a good question! There’s like a list of things that I would say to them, but I would just tell them, you know, kids aren’t being affected by drag performers or drag queens. The main thing that they’re being affected by is gun violence like we saw with Uvalde. You know? It’s like an ongoing thing that happens quite often, which is like really shocking. But I mean, it’s America, you know, like the craziest shit happens here. Focus on the real problems, focus on the real matters. 

Drag queens are not affecting kids. Kids see, drag queens as, like, princess party performers. You know, like, that’s the best that I could, like, compare that to. Kids are like really smart, like, individuals. And I think they know, like from right and wrong. Like I said earlier, drag isn’t, like, a serious thing. It’s a fun thing. It’s a fun thing filled with, like, positivity, and light, and love. And they really shouldn’t be focusing on that and they should be focusing more on the important things like gun violence and then also homelessness and poverty… with children, children stuck in foster homes, you know, or children that don’t have access to the foster care system anymore, or even like climate change. Like we’re literally going to fucking die, like, in, like 30 years, you know what I mean? Like, we should be trying to reverse that. 

A drag queen is not going to turn your child gay. Like, you know, like trust me, because I was that child. It’s just so insane and baffling to me because it’s like, can you just focus on something else? Like, leave us alone? Like we’re just trying to enjoy ourselves and express ourselves in any way that we can. 

How would the legislative attacks on drag impact you, your spaces, and your community?

I think all my community would probably probably be lost and it’s a very sad and scary thing to think about. And I keep trying to, you know, distract myself, you know, and trying to hope and pray for the best, you know, after all this work that everyone has done, you know, going to the Capitol, like using our voices, spreading awareness and still like it seems like a big defeat. 

I feel like my sense of freedom and my sense of therapy would be completely gone. And my chosen family would almost be gone because no one would have any source of income or, you know, an opportunity to perform or to be in a show. You know, a lot of drag performers that I know personally, that’s like their main source of income, which is like, you know, if that was lost completely, that would be that would be very unfortunate and very sad because the last thing that we need in this country is more homeless trans people and more homeless queer people. It’s just so important that we just come together and we stick together as a community because that’s all we have at the end of the day, it seems like — because it’s just so many attacks left and right from everyone. And it’s really unfortunate.

“It’s just so important that we just come together and we stick together as a community because that’s all we have at the end of the day, it seems like — because it’s just so many attacks left and right from everyone.”

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