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Health & Fit7 Transgender and Non-Binary People Share How Drag Helped Their Mental Health

01:00  13 june  2019
01:00  13 june  2019 Source:   teenvogue.com

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Here’s what seven transgender or non - binary young people have to say about what performing in drag means to them and how it impacts their mental health . Oliver Hugh, 20. They/Them Madison, WI. My first drag performance was Pride Prom at UW-Madison in 2018, my sophomore year of college.

Non - binary , also known as genderqueer, is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍—‌identities that are outside the gender binary and cisnormativity.

7 Transgender and Non-Binary People Share How Drag Helped Their Mental Health© Andy Boyce

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Identity. 7 Transgender and Non - Binary People Share How Drag Helped Their Mental Health .

In this climate, bolstering the mental health of transgender youth is more important than ever. While it’s often seen as a form of expression or entertainment, performing drag can also act as way cope not just with negative societal pressures for queer people, but as a boon to mental health.

Drag is a tradition with a long and rich history for the LGBTQ community and beyond. While drag performances have risen in mainstream popularity lately, it has been a tradition in different forms for at least more than 100 years. Recently there has also been a spike in the popularity of drag culture among young transgender people, as performances are put up on college campuses and in queer youth groups across the country. For some young transgender people who are too often forced to conform to the limits of binary gender in an academic or social setting, performing drag can provide a space to express themselves fully and unashamedly, taking on a new wardrobe, name, and even identity in order to transcend the boundaries gender and radically pursue joy.

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Transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. Some transgender people who desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another

Here’s what seven transgender or non-binary young people have to say about what performing in drag means to them and how it impacts their mental health.

Oliver Hugh, 20

They/Them

Madison, WI

My first drag performance was Pride Prom at UW-Madison in 2018, my sophomore year of college. I had recently come out as non-binary and was experimenting with my gender expression, so drag seemed like a natural step for me to continue that exploration. I ordered a top hat, dug out the makeup that I had hidden away from my femme days, and searched endlessly for makeup and dance tutorials. In my research, I discovered that cis[gender] gay white men dominated the scene as drag queens, and there was little information or guidance about other ways to do drag. I shifted my focus to learning about the history of drag and what it meant to be a drag performer. I realized that in order to give the best performance that I could, I didn’t need to be great at makeup, costumes, or dancing — those things would all come with time. What I could control, and what I put my energy into, was creating a persona that was an authentic representation and celebration of my experiences with my body and gender. Empathy is the most important tool at our disposal, and drag has given me the platform to tell my story in an empowering way. It has taught me to defy expectations, own my decisions, and balance confidence with humility. What drag has helped me accomplish in terms of my mental health has been better than years of therapy; when I’m on stage, I am fully myself — good, bad, and everything in between. I am human, I am flawed, and I am enough.

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7 Transgender and Non-Binary People Share How Drag Helped Their Mental Health© Teen Vogue Credit: Andrew Topel

Miss Taijen, 20

Any pronoun

Vassar College

I started performing in drag my first year of college just out of the exhilaration of it. It felt freeing, and I wanted to dive in and explore my queerness. I still remember my first time so vividly: I was doing a Pussycat Dolls song, and my makeup was horrendous! I wore this skimpy dress that barely covered the fact that I didn't even change out of my boxer briefs. But I enjoyed it immensely and I had rarely ever felt so free. I felt so much stronger by the end of the night, even though outwardly, it was probably pretty laughable. I would say it was magical.

7 Transgender and Non-Binary People Share How Drag Helped Their Mental Health© Teen Vogue Credit: Kevin Arce

Jake Woehrle, 20

They/Them

New York City

Drag, in a way, is my armor that allows me to explore emotions and experiences I could not otherwise access without harm to my wellbeing. It is my medium to express all the queer rage that accumulates and would eat away at my mental health. Performing in drag can be a very vulnerable experience, but when you tap into your authenticity, draw a character from your being, put on a good show and receive not only praise but validation, there is no better boost to your wellbeing and self-confidence. Drag is kind of celebration or appreciation of being and it feels so good when you get to feel that as a performer.

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Many people may experience anxiety when seeking medical treatment. They might worry about wait times, insurance coverage or how far they must travel to access care. Transgender and non - binary individuals have an added fear: gender -related discrimination.

Vesolo, 20

Any pronoun Boston, Massachusetts

The first time I did a drag performance was in 2017 at my friend’s top surgery benefit show in Brooklyn. I wore a black leather shiny jumpsuit and had my nipples out and it was around the time when my hair had finally gotten long enough to put into a bun. I remember feeling so free. Any time I get to perform with a group of performers and musicians that are all people of color, I feel a complete renewal of energies in my life. We get to own a space, make it beautiful, fill it with our sounds, our smiles and our own work. Performing femininity in a world that doesn't accept it because I was born into a 'male body' is so transformative. I struggle with depression and anxiety but when I am performing, that is the only thing on my mind for 20 minutes, which is such a powerful release.

7 Transgender and Non-Binary People Share How Drag Helped Their Mental Health© Teen Vogue Credit: Andy Boyce

Norah Pliss, 21

She/Her

Largo, Florida

I started performing in drag when I was a small child — I used to dress up with my neighbors and perform for my parents and siblings. At the time I didn’t realize it was drag but that’s pretty much exactly what it was; we were making our own characters and putting on a show. My experience has been very transformative. There were a lot of things that I was going through in my adolescence that I didn’t know how to express through words so I was looking for spaces where I could explore my feelings and identity and that’s kind of what drag became for me. Last year I did a burlesque show where I dressed up as a nun because I was trying to explore the intersections between eroticism and religion and call on my experiences in the Christian church. Hearing the audience applauding at the end was such an affirmation; it was so cool to feel like people really heard what I was trying to say.

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People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends, or seek out activities where you can meet new people , such as a club, class or support group.

Erasure of non - binary people , “there’s only two genders ”. If you’re not going to help someone with Non - binary is a more specific term than transgender and all non - binary people are transgender since they Non - binary are people whose gender identity is neither strictly man nor strictly woman.

Jake, 20

They/Them

Vassar College

I started performing in drag in Los Angeles at around 16 years old. I’ve always loved makeup and clothing, and drag was a cool way to experiment with my creative self-expression in an “underground” way before I incorporated more creativity into my everyday expression. I’m a relatively closed-off person and drag can feel super vulnerable for me; it unlocks and displays parts myself I don’t usually show, which used to scare the sh*t out of me! Over time I’ve come to realize that showing others your vulnerability is essential for forming meaningful relationships and I’ve noticed that being open and honest through drag has strengthened many of my relationships with my family and friends.

7 Transgender and Non-Binary People Share How Drag Helped Their Mental Health© Teen Vogue Credit: Tom Stankard

Ben, 20

He/him

Beloit College

I have been interested in gender-bending and gender performance since way before I knew what those words meant. When I was a little kid I would dress up in boys clothes and make up characters and alter egos for myself. I started performing in drag when I was 17—my high school’s LGBT group put on a drag show and I did a couple of acts as a drag king. I wasn’t really out as trans to anyone, including myself, when I started performing, and although I was never a very feminine person, doing drag was one place where I could express myself in a very masculine way and not have to think about the implications of my expression. I think one thing that performing in drag (and watching other performers who inspire me) has taught me is that we shouldn’t take gender so seriously. For a lot of trans people that’s incredibly hard to do, because we spend so much time worrying about how the world sees us and if we “pass” or not or if we’re being trans the “right way.” Gender can become this devastating, agonizing thing because of the emphasis our culture puts on gender roles, and I think drag can help people of all genders get away from that, at least for a little while. I still have things I’m dysphoric about of course and sometimes I don’t feel great about how I look in drag, but once I start performing a lot of that goes away.

7 Transgender and Non-Binary People Share How Drag Helped Their Mental Health© Teen Vogue Credit: Gabe Gonzalez
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