We had a little chat with Sussex’s new drag society
Step aside RuPaul’s Drag Race!
Like many other universities, Sussex offers a wide range of societies catering for those with specific tastes. Whether you want to play board games, go surfing, or even chat about Doctor Who you can find a group of people just like you. For the first time in Sussex history, a drag society has been approved and so we spoke to AJ, one of the creators, to find out more.
What was the reason you created it, and why Brighton? Or more specifically, the university of Sussex?
Brighton has one of the best drag scenes in the whole of the U.K., and we’ve noticed there wasn’t a drag community here, so me and my friend Ally decided that there should be a drag community. We found several artists that wanted to have a space to share, create, and meet other people.
We felt like Brighton was the best place to do it. When we spoke to the committee, we found out we are the first one in the U.K. So not only is there a lack of a drag community within Universities, there’s a lack of Drag communities within the U.K.
Why do you think drag societies are uncommon across the U.K.?
I think drag the art, is still very new. It arrived within the 60’s within America, and it’s still a tiny performance art. Even though a lot of people who have Netflix know about RuPaul’s Drag race is, or might have seen some shows. It’s a national television show, but not everyone is aware of the culture in the UK. Like the underground culture, or realising you can actually see them. So yeah, drag is very new. It’s very cool that we can have a drag society now.
Did the process take long to get through the university? Did you hit any problems on the way?
No, we didn’t have any obstacles. The student Union were very supportive about it. It did take about a month or two because they had a specific meeting about establishing new societies, but as soon as we told them they were very excited about it they were very supportive.
When will it come into effect?
We’ve started it now, from about a couple of weeks ago we became an official society to start operating as a society. We are currently planning a drag event to be hosted here, at the beginning of next month (December), so that will be our first official performance. It’s to raise awareness of what we’re doing, get people involved to show what drag is all about. We’ll have some external performances to emphasise even further what drag’s all about.
So do you see performers making more appearances in the future?
Yes. There’s only a small group of us at the moment, and I’m a Drag King myself, but I don’t have a specific act so I don’t perform yet. But we’ve got Drag family members like Ally, whose father is coming and performing. So all the people we know.
I know several Drag queens around Brighton. We just want to bring in more people and show what type of performances we’re able to do, whilst getting attention for that.
Do you see this becoming a nationwide thing?
I hope so! I would love to bring attention to it. I hope that societies become more nationwide, we beat Bournemouth to being the first drag society, because I know they’re setting one up now. But I hope it gets more attention. We are in Brighton, and I know we’re very good performers.
How many people have signed up so far?
We’re a small group, and we’re all the committee team basically. Me, and Ally sort of started it, and the others came in soon after. We have a load of friends that want to come in, and we’re going to advertise soon within university.
What will you offer to your members?
We’re going to have socials, drag make up lessons. We have people willing to come in and teach students about how to apply make up. Hopefully at the end of every term we will have a massive performance.
We also have drag artists who want to come in and talk about breaking the gender binaries because there are Drag artists like myself who look like a man, but wear heels, wear dresses which help to break the binary through art. There are loads of ideas we’d like to do, but those are the main ones running.
When you say “gender binaries”, do you feel like the casual outsider assumes you can only play certain roles based on gender?
Yeah, definitely. Especially in drag. Drag’s not just about portraying a man, or portraying a woman. You’re portraying a character and that doesn’t have to be a man or a woman. A lot of drag artists we know are breaking down the gender constructs, because at the end of the day… Clothes are just clothes. They are just worn by people of different genders.
What can we expect it terms of attire? Does this depend on the events?
Performers tend to wear their favourite outfits. Outfits that tend to stand out. I like wearing formal suits for example.
What are the common misconceptions about drag? We sort of talked about how people see it as a gender associated thing. But do you think there has been a lack of sensitivity, and knowledge on drag?
I think there is, a lot of people see drag as just men dressing up as women, and they’re perverts or things like that. If you look at RuPaul’s Drag Race, there’s loads of drag queens or who are genderfluid, or genderqueer. It doesn’t matter if they portray a woman, or if they’re a different gender.
I also think one of the big misconceptions is that drag is just for drag queens, because the drag king side of it is very small in comparison to drag queens. They’re not really taken as seriously. When drag first came out in the 60’s it was largely just drag queen, but drag kings were also just as interesting.
What’s the correct terminology for someone who might not know anything about drag? Are there any pronouns you would like us to use?
Traditionally it starts off as a Drag Queen or a Drag King, so regardless of gender or their sex you use the pronouns of what they’re dressed up as. Some drag artists use different pronouns, so usually you’d have to ask them, but typically if you have a male drag artist or a woman you have to refer to them as “he’s” out of tradition.
Where do you see this society in a few years? One of the most popular…?
I definitely hope so! We aim to collaborate with a lot of different societies. Because the drag society isn’t just for people who want to do drag. People who appreciate drag, or like watching drag are welcome. We aim to have lots of events that will cater to what everyone wants.
We want to work with the photography society, the media society, the LGBT society etc. We want to branch out, and we want to be popular. We just have a massive appreciation for what we do so we want to spread the love basically. We really hope in a couple of years it will be successful.
How would someone viewing this sign up?
We have a Facebook group, the University of Sussex Drag Soc. We have Twitter which is @UosDragSoc. We don’t have an official set up page yet because they’re adding it onto the student union at the moment. When we have an event at the beginning of the month, we will have a clipboard so you can add your emails to the mailing list. So that will be the main way to sign up for now.