Not a Cock in a Frock, but a Hole Story. Drag and the Mark of the 'Bioqueens'

Farrier, Stephen (2020) Not a Cock in a Frock, but a Hole Story. Drag and the Mark of the 'Bioqueens'. In: Contemporary Drag Practices and Performers, Drag in a Changing Scene Vol. 1. Methuen Drama Engage, 1 . Bloomsbury, London, pp. 102-115. ISBN 97813550082946


This chapter engages with the phenomenon known colloquially as ‘bio-queens’. Bio-queens are biological female performers who make work as if a traditional drag queen. Thus the performers: females playing males playing females, makes for a complex interplay of gender, performance and the traditions of drag. By comparing drag king performances, the chapter unpicks how drag performance traditions are present in kings and queens. It then looks to how performance with bio-queens concurs, upsets and augments those drag traditions. There is a politics at play when a cis-gendered performer presents cross-cast in drag forms (in this case a female presenting as female) and this chapter engages with the presentation of bio-queens as a form of politics in the queer community – and notes that even the term bio-queen is subject to vigorous debate. By focussing on a specific performer, Holestar, this chapter engages primarily with her work, but also with her experience of misogyny in the community and the mark this has left on her. Through her experiences, the chapter plays on this idea of ‘mark/ing’ as a moment of noticing, of marking something out of place or out of rhythm that in some way allows an audience to see unexamined assumptions about drag performance (and perhaps its position in relation to gender equality). Marking also stands as a term for grading, for ranking the relative quality of something. This turn to the quality of the performance (given that Holestar sings and lots of queens do not) brings about an interesting discussion of the relationship of the quality of the work, the traditions into which it fits and the community in which it is practiced. The chapter closes by marking the importance of bio-queens in the scene, not only to further diversify the kinds of work present, but also as a litmus test of the grassroots politics of the community in which the work mostly plays. It makes the closing argument that bio-queens are in some ways continuing the political and cultural work of drag kings and drag queens in a way that kings or queens cannot. Holestar continues to do this work on stage and in interview in a fierce way (indeed berating academics for their inability to speak in a language that most performers understand). She does this, of course, whilst maintaining impeccable and unfeasibly large hair.


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