Performing Gender

by | Nov 1, 2020 | 0 comments

  • Bailey performing as Nemo, photographed by Samantha Waldron.
  • Bailey Mosling out of drag.

Gender reveals set an expectation for an unborn child to follow. For me, my parents put me in a gender box that would be hard for me to see beyond until I was 11 years old. My family’s version of a gender reveal was a present filled with pink rose petals and a sonogram picture of me given to all of my family members as a Christmas gift. The pink petals lead my family to believe that I would be a girl 100 percent of the time. They were not entirely wrong, I would be a girl 40 percent of the time.

Hi, my name is Bailey, and I am 14 years old. For the most part I am a typical teen. I love animals, I like watching YouTube, spending time with my family, and reading about World War II. Oh, I’m also a transgender boy. This means that I was assigned the gender of female at birth but that I identify and live as a teen boy. For the past 8 months, I have found excitement in performing as a drag kid and being part of the drag kid community. Recently, I have come to realize that me being a transgender boy that does drag makes people uncomfortable. People are willing to accept me as a trans boy, but they want me to stick to the “male” side of the gender spectrum in all parts of my life. I am way more complex than that. I think we all are.

Some people get confused when they find out I was assigned female at birth, identify as a boy AND also find joy in performing as a female drag kid. Gender identity is how you feel on the inside. For me, my gender identity is boy. Gender expression is the way you express yourself to the public. My gender expression does not change my gender identity. I like to think of gender expression as an accessory, one that I have control over putting on and taking off. Part of the freedom I have in gender expression is me doing drag.

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My drag name is Nemo. The name was inspired by a non-binary character in the book The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater. As Nemo I am able to make people laugh, make fun of myself, make fun of gender norms, and be more confident than I am as Bailey. Being Nemo is not just about putting on a wig and makeup, although that is a part of it. It’s about becoming someone else and creating a character with a point of view. I use my social media presence as Nemo on Instagram and YouTube: Nemo_drag to fight for causes important to myself and the LGBTQ+ community, to spread awareness of gender non-conforming individuals like myself, and to spread happiness. One of my goals as Nemo is to push the boundaries of who can and cannot express themselves through the art of drag. Some people do not approve of and will not hire “bio queens” (assigned female at birth, identify as female, and are drag queens) to perform saying that they have an unfair advantage or that drag is meant to be female impersonation and illusion. Similarily, there is lots of controversy around members of the transgender community participaing in drag art and performance. I feel that drag is for anyone who wants to push the boundaries of gender expression.

I believe the time has come for us to rethink our response to doctor assigned gender at birth. Gender reveals are a big topic now due to the environmental damage we have seen done recently for the sake of celebrating a gender identity that may not fit for a child. When I read Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin it allowed me to see a world of colors beyond 100 percent pink, and that allowed me to start the process of discovering who I really was. As a society, we need to reconsider the pressure we could be putting on our children by making assumptions of who they will be, based on their assigned gender at birth. Let them play with whatever toys they want, let them dress however they want, let them express themselves freely. Let them be the ones to decide who they will become. Most of all, let them have fun in this process. For me that fun was found in drag. Allow them to play with gender expression and be open to their gender identity falling outside of the binary boy vs. girl our society is so fixated on.

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