In January of 2020, two months before a gathering of this kind would become unthinkable, I treated myself to a $30 cardio dance class at Banana Skirt Productions in midtown Manhattan. We’d been promised an original choreographed routine to Kelis’s hit “Milkshake,” and I needed to bring the boys to my yard to kick start a sluggish year. The song choice was nicely calibrated to the participant demographic, mostly white women in their twenties and thirties with leggings and platform sneakers, roughly in the range of body types of a Dove ad. Our instructor, a Black man fresh off his BFA in musical theater, with diamond earrings and a high voltage smile, started in with affirmative instruction right away. “You’re serving Rihanna modeling Fenty,” he said, demonstrating a louche strut. “Now give us a fierce little turn to the mirror,” he said, squatting and popping. Like all skilled dance instructors, he demonstrated and validated simultaneously. “Work it,” he said, making a vogue-like arm motion while looking at us in the mirror. “Sickening,” he nodded, moving to the sidelines as we performed. “Come through!”
Like everyone else there, I did not need the vocabulary explained; like everyone else there, I had watched RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’d realized how mainstream the drag vocabulary that originated from Black and Brown women and femmes had become the first time I purchased a tub of Yaas! Hummus. This was something more. It wasn’t just that drag-speak was so common that affluent white women felt at home using it. It was that these same women needed the language of drag to feel good about themselves. Shimmering moistly under the studio lights, we’d been given permission to exult in hyperbolic femininity. It didn’t matter that we might not consciously have been thinking about drag queens; we didn’t need to. The language had transcended its original context, which meant that it had transcended gender transgression, drag’s reason for being.
And though, as a trans man, I’d like to think myself more versed in queer culture and therefore more deserving of its language, I was, in fact, there for the same reasons the cis straight women were. It didn’t matter that I had a moustache; I still wanted to Wake Up and Slay, as the shirt on the woman next to me read. Like everyone else, I was channeling my inner queen.
What is drag without gender—or, more precisely, what is drag when it has become decoupled from crossing gender lines? At the point (mid-twerk) that I realized a primary function of contemporary drag is to make cis white women feel better about themselves, I’d been researching gender and drag for a while. Specifically, I was interested in drag that troubled the traditional male to female crossing. This troubling is not particularly unusual. Though the popular understanding of a drag queen is “a man who dresses as a woman,” we know that the lines between man and genderqueer and trans woman are fuzzy, especially as drag developed in a social-historical context without such designations. Queens who might now call themselves trans women paved the way for drag as we know it today. RuPaul’s Drag Race, however, was slower to catch up. Kylie Sonique Love from Season 2 was the first queen to transition after being on the show, but it took until Peppermint on Season 9 for a queen to enter the competition as a trans woman. The delay was likely due in part to RuPaul’s own views on trans women and drag, which sound suspiciously like a red state legislator talking about trans girls in high school sports. “You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body,” he said in an interview, later tweeting, “You can take performance enhancing drugs and still be an athlete, just not in the Olympics.”
After a backlash, RuPaul apologized, and hasn’t weighed in on the issue since. He may have changed his views, or he may have decided policing the boundaries of drag isn’t good optics. Under pressure from the trans community, the show eliminated the longstanding catchphrase, “You’ve got she-mail.” The queens on the show began to speak more explicitly about their genders. High profile contestants like Shea Couleé and Sasha Velour came out as nonbinary, while Season Seven winner Violet Chachki publicly identified as gender fluid.
All these queens, however, were assigned male at birth. Outside of Drag Race, a different kind of revolution was taking place, with increasing numbers of people assigned female at birth (AFAB) identifying as drag queens. On the alternative horror-influenced drag series The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, Eve Hollow, an AFAB nonbinary queen with a penchant for provocative gross-out couture, made a dress out of menstrual pads to illustrate mainstream drag’s shaming of processes associated with women’s bodies. Cis women drag queens aren’t new in some circles, but, in the wake of RuPaul’s comments and the larger rapidly evolving conversation about gender, they began to speak out in larger forums. A 2018 video from The Cut called “Who Does Drag?” mischievously included a cis woman drag queen in a lineup, out of which a befuddled straight man had to guess who was a drag queen. Once revealed, the queen, whose drag name is Femme Daddy, told the visibly uncomfortable straight man that, “I realized I identified more with drag queens and faggots than I did with heavy dykes.”
My own research on this topic led me to speak with several AFAB drag queens, among them Venus Envy, who calls herself “Orlando’s Uncanny Valley Girl.” I interviewed Venus in late 2019 at RuPaul’s Drag Con, a massive celebration of the RuPaul franchise held annually (pre-covid) in midtown Manhattan. Dressed in a lime wig, a pink vinyl dress and a matte makeup known as “skin frost,” Venus said there were no other cis women doing drag in her area when she started. The only reason she could book gigs, she told me, was because the way had been paved by trans women performers. Venus’s drag mother Danielle Hunter, a trans woman, “defends me endlessly,” she said. It was her drag mother who challenged area clubs when they were reluctant to book Venus. According to that logic, if the club didn’t want to book a woman, they shouldn’t be booking Danielle as a trans woman, either. “So you think Venus is a woman and I’m not?” Danielle would say to the managers, and they would back down.
Now, Venus told me, there are several cis women drag queens in her area, and she gets much less pushback from club managers. Other AFAB queens described a similar arc: initial resistance to them is giving way to curiosity. AFAB queens have become a useful symbol in determining people’s perspectives about the future of drag. In 2016, RuPaul dismissed the prospect of cisgender women competing on his show with the quip, “That show already exists. It’s called Miss Universe.” At the DragCon where I interviewed Venus, cis female queens were also a litmus test. When someone at a panel featuring longstanding New York queens asked about them, the panel was fiercely divided. Merrie Cherry, a Brooklyn queen, voiced her opposition to AFAB queens: “There’s a difference between a drag queen and someone who dresses up.” On the other side was Marti Cummings, a Hell’s Kitchen queen who was then running for City Council. “The minute you put drag in a box you kill it,” Cummings said, to applause and cheers.
As the DragCon audience indicated, the Hell’s Kitchen perspective is winning out: expanding drag’s relationship to gender past man-dressing-as-woman is now both the progressive and the fashionable choice. Bambi Galore, a Baltimore-based nonbinary queen, told me that when they started performing, “there was a lot of gatekeeping around the term drag queen.” Now, Bambi feels empowered to say to anyone who thinks they aren’t a “real” queen: “You can think that. My paychecks tell me differently. My awards tell me differently.” Before the Baltimore City Paper closed, Galore was named “Best Drag Performer” by a reader poll.
It is becoming a truth universally acknowledged that anyone can be a drag queen. Still, there is one gender demographic I never saw coming.
I would say it as a joke: when are we going to see a trans man drag queen? As if it were the last gender frontier. And in many ways, it was. Cis gay men might not want to live as women full time, but many clearly get joy out of dressing as them. Cis women, trans women, and nonbinary people (both AFAB and AMAB) aren’t being asked to make a particularly large gender leap to get to drag queen. But trans men? We put a lot of effort into rejecting womanhood. We cut parts of ourselves off, inject ourselves with hormones, spend thousands of dollars, submit to years of therapy and painful conversations with loved ones. Our traumatic memories often involve being made to dress up in frilly things for holidays. How could anyone expect us to willingly don those clothes again? And if we did, to do it with such consistency and talent that we become good enough at the art form to get on a national platform like RuPaul’s Drag Race?
In retrospect, there was a lot I didn’t see coming. I didn’t know that the dance class I attended in Manhattan would be one of my last. I didn’t know, when I cancelled my plans to shadow an AFAB nonbinary drag queen through their performance at NYC’s Club Cumming, that NYC wouldn’t just be in lockdown for a week or two (events at Club Cumming restarted a year and a half later). And I didn’t know about Gottmik.
I found out somehow in the haze of Season 13 buzz, the brutality of a pandemic winter: there would be a trans man on Season 13 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. My friends who watched Drag Race said, Holy shit. My friends who didn’t watch Drag Race said, Wait, so he started as a woman, and then he transitioned to be a man, and now he’s dressing as a woman? And when I said yes, they said, Holy shit.
To me, Kade Gottlieb—drag alias Gottmik—was a marvel, a gift from a benevolent god. I decided to invest all my hopes in him. “He better be good,” I texted my friend Liz. “He’s representing all my people.” “CRUCIFY HIM TO THE HIGHEST STANDARD,” she texted back.
Information started to be available online. Gottlieb was twenty-three years old, had come to LA from Arizona to work as a makeup artist, and had connections (I’ll use “she” pronouns when referring to Gottmik and “he” for Gottlieb, Gottlieb’s expressed preference). He was friends with popular trans YouTuber Gigi Gorgeous and painted Paris Hilton’s face. “I need to be the first trans winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, period,” Gottmik announced at the start of her Meet the Queens episode, the first taste for Season 13 audiences. She wore a shoulder padded space-like suit with geometrical front chest openings that highlighted her bejeweled nipple pasties, and silver-blue makeup that perfectly mirrored the suit in color and contour. Gottmik was obviously a skilled artisan, but did she have a chance at the crown? I decided to scale back my expectations, mostly for my own protection. Now Gottmik existed in reality, instead of just as a concept, and anyone who existed extra-conceptually could fail me.
Despite Gottmik’s own attempts to get in front of the narrative that she was “only a look queen,” comfortable on Instagram and at a loss on the stage, I thought that she was probably only a look queen. That was ok; it was enough that she was clearly competent. I could see that she wouldn’t embarrass our people. She would last until the fourth episode or so, I thought, and then she would go home, and it would still be historic, and that would be fine. I settled in to wait for the season premiere.
I began my transition a decade ago—an eon in transgender time. In Lincoln, Nebraska, where I went to graduate school, I attended a support group that met at the local Planned Parenthood. Outside, there were often anti-abortion protestors. Inside, the trans men were pretty tough, for reasons of both necessity and style. We might have been eighteen years and eighty miles from Brandon Teena’s murder, but that time and distance collapsed for Nebraska trans men, for whom the shadow of Teena’s death and the risks it implied loomed large.
The guys in my group were hardened in the way that comes from a certain interpretation of manhood but also from the rest of the world failing you. Many were not in contact with their parents. Many had lost butch lesbian friends, who viewed them as betraying the cause. Many of them worked “man jobs,” in construction or landscaping, jobs in which they went stealth, their past unknown to the people around them. One of them had gotten his mastectomy covered by insurance by saying he wanted a breast reduction for back pain, and then telling his doctor on the morning of the surgery that by “reduction” he’d meant taking everything off.
I felt out of place there. I had the opposite of a job that required me to work with my hands: a comfortable grad student life I was privileged enough to be able to conduct mostly in my head. My masculinity models were the nebbishy men of the Seinfeld episodes on which I’d been raised. I was picky with the hem of my pants, the fit of my shirts. I loved Beyoncé. I was attracted to women, but I’d never been butch. I couldn’t fix anything or set up a tent. I knew that my days as a ballet dancer in early adolescence were not an aberration from my gender journey, but part of it in a way that I hadn’t yet been able to articulate. Among my fellow trans men, I wondered if I was real. Maybe I was transitioning to be part of the trend, as the conservative cultural commentators were just beginning to say. Maybe I wasn’t enough of a man.
That was also the time when I began watching Drag Race, then in its third season. I fell in love quickly: there was its structure with its sequence of mini and main challenge and runways, dependable in its constraints and delightful in its variations; the runway wordplay, which felt like the humor fashion had been missing; the inside jokes and catchphrases and the seduction of knowing in-group drama. The delight of learning an aesthetic world that was far from my own but that I could now pretend to be a judge of: whether a queen had cinched and padded properly, whether the line of her makeup reached her wig, whether she’d worn the same silhouette for the past three runways and really needed to branch out.
I’ve kept watching Drag Race in the decade since, even as many of my friends have stopped—whether because it’s now too mainstream for queer bonafides, or because of Ru’s past comments about trans people, or because of his baffling decision to lease his Montana ranch for fracking. Through it all I remained faithful to the show and to the fantasy that, as unlike the queens as I was, I could imagine myself among them for an hour every week.
Kade Gottlieb might have been a foot shorter than the other queens, but otherwise he fit in seamlessly. I know because I monitored him closely for the entire season. Part of me was waiting for him to slip up, to reveal some irreconcilable difference between his world and the world of the other queens. Some slang used artificially, perhaps, or a reference missed, or an awkward disconnect in the obligatory disgorging of personal histories.
It didn’t happen. From early on, Gottlieb was sharing the kind of easy physicality and affectionate banter with his fellow queens that some of them would never develop before they were eliminated. “You bitch. You’re a linebacker,” Gottlieb said in an early mini-challenge, playfully shoving Kandy Muse as they both ran for the same fabrics. Kandy Muse is a broad-shouldered queen from the Bronx who could not be more dissimilar, physically or culturally, to Gottmik. Yet in what seemed like no time at all the two were ensconced in a clique, with Tina Burner, known as the Mean Girls.
The Mean Girls label speaks more to the group’s popularity than their attitude, because Gottlieb is not mean. He has an unfussy warmth that translates well in the conspiratorial cocoon of the “werkroom,” without preventing him from delivering the shade that is also its necessary discourse. In fact, he won the famous “reading” mini challenge, which judges queens by how successfully they can lob personalized barbs at each other. Again using his friend Kandy Muse as the punchline, Gottlieb gestured to the assembled queens: “It is so amazing how we represent such different communities here: Gay, trans…pug.”
Gottlieb evinced an appealing complexity. The camera would often show him with his legs crossed delicately on the werkroom couch, quietly observing, yet he was not shy. He has a sly self confidence that often emerged in conversations with RuPaul. When Ru asked Gottlieb to name his three favorite disco songs (part of Ru’s ongoing project to publicly shame gay men into knowing their history), Gottlieb didn’t miss a beat: “I think I might keep them to myself for right now.” Ru found this hilarious—his response to pretty much everything Gottlieb said.
There was a reason why I tensed at every joke thrown Gottlieb’s way, then relaxed when he’d aced another verbal test. I was viewing the embrace of cis gay men as the ultimate validation of masculinity. I’m not proud of it, but it’s a perception that many of my fellow trans men share. Maybe it’s because cis gay men (unlike cis straight men) are known to be particular and aesthetic focused, the arbiters of who is man enough to be desirable.
Or maybe it’s just because I’m self-hating. “Gay cis male culture can be incredibly cruel to gay trans men and to femme men,” says my friend Mickey, a gay trans man. Mickey, his husband Jack (also a trans man) and I watched Season 13 warily, braced for microaggressions. Would the other queens make a comment about Gottlieb’s body not being masculine enough, about his voice being too high, a crude joke about his genitals?
They did not, at least not in the edited version. When Gottmik used a song verse challenge to reveal that she was assigned female at birth, fellow queen Olivia Lux (Freddy Carlton) proved invaluable in supporting Gottmik in the emotional fallout. It is not clear whether Carlton knew that Gottlieb was trans; at any rate, he responds admirably, first modeling his own pronoun use before asking Gottlieb his. “Thank you for sharing that with us,” Carlton says, to Gottlieb’s obvious relief. “You’re changing the shape of drag. This is big.”
Over g-chat, Mickey, Jack and I marveled at this reception, as well as the simple existence of Gottmik in the first place. “I'm amazed at the confidence and security that this kid has,” Mickey said. “She's part of a different generation and likely came into gender discovery under a different set of rules. Not to minimize the barriers that Kade Gottlieb had to overcome in his world to get comfortable in his skin, but it's a new queer world.”
Among the three of us I sensed some sadness (or maybe it was just me feeling it), for what Kade has that we didn’t: the ability to move easily into his gender, to see future versions of himself. Mickey, Jack, and I, who all now look and act extremely gay, all came up to varying degrees in the world of lesbians. Transitioning to queer manhood had felt like immigrating to another country. This did not seem to be the case for Gottlieb. Like me, Gottlieb had watched Drag Race from its inception, but instead of being a late twenty something grad student in Nebraska, Gottlieb had been a middle school Catholic school kid in Arizona. Kade Gottlieb was developing a selfhood just as Drag Race was developing a selfhood.
Of course, this didn’t necessarily mean that becoming a drag queen was self-evident for him. There was no Gottmik for Gottmik to look up to. At least he had drag to watch, though. As a kid growing up in Indiana pre-Internet, my exposure to drag was severely limited. My first time seeing drag live had been the Miss Gay Indiana University pageant in 1999, and though in retrospect the performances were rather conventional, it was still a revelation. Here was a man, putting on another gender. What kinds of gender could I put on?
That Miss Gay IU performance came three years after the publication of Bodies That Matter, the book in which Judith Butler made it clear both that drag is one of the best ways to think about gender and that inhabiting a gender is not as simple as putting on and taking off clothes. Of course, at the time I didn’t know Butler’s work. I’m not sure that Gottmik does either, but that hasn’t stopped her from embodying Butler’s theories.
In her famous reading of Paris is Burning, Butler writes that the labor of drag makes the labor of gender visible. The word labor here is intentional; performativity is not nearly as playful as the popular gloss of Butler’s work would make it seem. Gottmik, too, tends to frame his drag as work, and not just in the Werk, Bitch sense. In his first confessional, Gottlieb explains, “I was born a girl, transitioned to a guy, and dress like a girl for money.”
Gottlieb’s neat summation reflects our increasing understanding of the difference between gender identity and gender expression. We (the viewers of Drag Race, at least) are now comfortable with someone being assigned one gender, identifying as another, and expressing a third. It’s the expression that takes work. Gottmik makes visible the emotional labor we expect from femme individuals. This is the reason drag kings have never taken off on any major level (perhaps in addition to their more limited palette of silhouettes). None of us—not cis women, not trans people, and certainly not cis men—use men to help us access our best selves. Gottlieb puts on women’s clothes to work for us.
So what kind of work is he doing? Butler says drag can either denaturalize or renaturalize gender; it all depends on the drag. A queen who can’t be “clocked” (identified as having been assigned male at birth) is known as a “fishy queen” (fish refers to the smell of a vagina). The fishier you are, the less of the work of your gender the audience sees. If you’re a fishy queen, you’re not transgressing gender norms, you’re showing their power. But a queen who can be clocked shows us not just her own failure to meld seamlessly into an ideal, but the failure of gender overall. Every lump in hip padding or darkened jawline reminds us that what we think of as womanhood is just a collection of repeated signifiers.
Gottmik complicates the question of what is fish, like she complicates everything else. When we see Gottmik dwarfed by her fellow queens, our thought is not to call that “fish,” though technically it’s the most fish of all, since height and bone structure are among the least fungible sex-related characteristics. Our instinct, when we see her dwarfed by the other queens, is to remember that Gottmik was born a girl. If we’re seeing her as fish, on the other hand, we’re acknowledging that her female illusion is successful, which means we’re acknowledging that there was an illusion in the first place.
When Olivia Lux said she uses “she” in drag and “he” out of it, Gottmik says she does the same. If she’s called “he” in drag, she feels clocked. You’d think that on one level, clocking would be a win-win situation for Gottmik. If she’s not clocked, she’s seen as a successful (in the fishy sense) drag queen. If she’s clocked, she’s being read as a man, which you would think would be validating for other reasons.
But I don’t believe that Gottmik means “clocked” in precisely the same sense. I believe she means clocked as in “assigned female at birth.” In other words, she doesn’t want to be different from the other queens. If you’re not reading her as a successful drag queen, you’re not reading her as a successful man.
Two years ago, I went to see Divine Trash, a cis woman who impersonates Divine, the late and much beloved filth queen famous for her John Waters film roles. Divine made her name in my home city of Baltimore, and the small crowd at the bar that night—mostly older white women—was eager to prove their bonafides. One woman used to own a vintage store where Divine shopped. She’d seen a lot of Divine impersonators over the years, she told me, but that the one we were about to see was “the closest thing so far” to the actual Divine. I asked what she thought about this particular drag queen being a woman. “It doesn’t bother me,” she said. “Her face out of makeup is Glenn Milstead.”
In becoming Divine, the Divine impersonator had also become Glenn Milstead, Divine’s given name. The more I talked to cis women and nonbinary drag queens, the more that idea returned. Through a circular, retroactive magic, their drag queen personas created a background image of manhood, which in turn lent legitimacy to the drag queen foreground.
Bambi Galore, the Baltimore-based AFAB nonbinary drag queen who hosted the Divine Trash show, introduced me to the concepts of “ghosting” and “spooking” in drag, which describe attempts by AMAB performers to disguise the parts of their bodies that appear male. Bambi in contrast, told me they “spook the spook” by wearing gloves (as if to hide mannish hands), or wearing a choker to hide an Adam’s Apple that isn’t actually there. If someone is hiding, we assume there is something to seek.
Gottmik, by contrast, isn’t hiding anything; she may not have an Adam’s Apple, but her manhood is real. That makes her drag a little different from AFAB cis or nonbinary queens who create the illusion of a manhood with which they don’t identify. Does this make Gottmik’s drag less transgressive? After all, Gottmik, unlike cis and nonbinary queens, is doing the opposite, in Orlando queen Venus Envy’s succinct assessment of conventional drag. Thinking like a second wave feminist: might there be an edge of misogynistic parody to Gottmik’s drag, as if she rejected her “natural” womanhood so she could put it on again in a gross approximation of the form?
But such an interpretation wouldn’t actually be seeing Gottmik. She’s capable of serving fish (as someone who has done Paris Hilton’s makeup, her Snatch Game Hilton face was indistinguishable from the original). But she also uses drag to call attention to her transness. This happens in the content she creates, as we saw with her “born a girl” verse. It also happens in her fashion: in her trans flag inspired ensembles and in her penchant for cut-outs that reveal her top-surgery-flattened chest and a seemingly endless parade of cheeky nipple pasties.
With her drag, Gottmik validates her particular manhood while problematizing manhood in general. Showing, like revolutionary drag should, the seams on the body where gender is made. Gottmik is now famous for her opening Snatch Game gambit, the gimmick that set the tone for her challenge win. Positioned on the game set with the other queens, Ru feeds her his opening question. Gottmik, as Paris, pretends that she doesn’t know she’s being filmed: “Just let me know when the cameras are rolling, and we’ll kill it.” When Ru says they are in fact filming, Gottmik abruptly switches vocal inflections to a signature Hilton sultry rasp. Ru busts up.
The thing about Gottmik is that she’s always performing. She’s performing even when the cameras are off (because the cameras are never truly off), even when she is impersonating someone who is pretending she’s not performing, even when she’s Gottmik out of Paris Hilton drag, even when he’s Kade Gottlieb out of Gottmik drag. Gottlieb’s confessionals are their own masterful exercises in persona. He mostly uses the cutaways to self-deprecate, creating a humanizing counter-arc to his otherwise unassailable competence. He winces in reaction to a shot of his fumbling dance moves and claims that “this footage is gonna haunt me forever” after he does a particularly white impersonation of the Afro-Latina Kandy Muse.
All this isn’t to suggest that Gottmik is fundamentally manipulative, all cold artifice. We don’t know who the real Gottmik is, not because there’s no real Gottmik, but because they’re all real Gottmiks. Nowhere is Gottmik’s interplay of personas shown so powerfully as when she participates in the finale episode ritual where Ru holds up a photo of each contestant as a child and asks them to speak to their younger self. In the photo, which Ru specified was being shown with Gottmik’s consent, the toddler drag queen is dressed in turtle pajamas, peeking out of what appears to be a toilet bowl. “Kade—that’s your name now,” Gottmik says, addressing the photo, “you just have to realize that you have to live your truth.”
In showing a childhood photo, Gottmik has taken the final step in owning her own narrative. Before we can clock her, she has clocked herself.
Etymologically, “clock” has been slang for “face” for a long time. We read faces like we read clocks. In drag, you’re supposed to be unclockable. If someone clocks you, they’ve identified you as a drag queen—i.e. not fish, i.e. not a “real woman.”
We already know Gottmik revels in clocking herself as a drag queen, because that makes her more of a man. When she shows her childhood photo she clocks herself, in that she identifies herself as having been born a girl. She also clocks herself in the chronological sense. In turning back the clock she’s showing the self that she used to be the love that he needed, and so retroactively healing herself, just as being a drag queen retroactively makes her a man. She’s doing this without forgetting her girlhood which is also her boyhood, there in the photo of young Kade, whose birth name we don’t know because it doesn’t matter, even though it does matter to Gottmik, who has said her birth name is part of her drag name, thereby showing this name is not dead so much as reconfigured in a new identity that was also already the old.
It’s true that Gottmik’s “live your truth” assertion is more than a little pat. It’s an inspo-cliché, right at home with the decontextualized drag discourse of my cardio twerkout class. It’s easy to be cynical about the function of drag today: the words and worlds of femmes of color commodified to enhance the lives of white women. That’s all true, and it’s more than that. Gottmik’s citational, playful, and vulnerable drag is a good reminder that a commodified discourse can be used for transgressive purposes. The first time I saw Gottmik confront her childhood self, I was too busy being genuinely moved to clock the Live Love Laugh vibes. My girlhood is not dead to me, but I have never known precisely what to do with it. It’s easy for me to slip into thinking of it as something to be ashamed of. Watching Gottmik in front of young Kade, I felt a new agency around my own childhood. I was reminded, like good drag does, of the ways I can create myself. That there is no part of my story that doesn’t belong to me.