After the first episode of RuPaul's Drag Race aired in 2009 and Canada's Drag Race followed suit in 2020, drag has been on the rise in mainstream media and in demand across the country.
Vancouver's vibrant drag scene has also become more mainstream, but with the increased popularity and interest comes a new expectation and perception of what drag is, according to drag king Toddy Full Time.
The trained opera singer, professional stand-up comedian and winner of the drag TV show Call Me Mother's first season hosts a drag brunch show called Party Dogs with two other drag kings and things, Heathen and King Fisher.
While drag queens dress in exaggerated women's clothing and makeup and take on female gender stereotypes, drag kings do the same with men's clothing, makeup and gender stereotypes. Drag things, on the other hand, don't conform to either gender; they're their own "thing." Though most drag queens are (often gay and queer) men and many drag kings are women, drag includes lesbian, gay, non-binary, transgender and cis-gender performers.
Drag is an opportunity for individuals to explore and play with gender, but it's also a way to explore the gender-less world in the form of drag things.
How RuPaul's 'Drag Race' changed expectations of drag
Toddy says she has noticed the expectations that emerged from drag becoming mainstream. "Because of RuPaul's Drag Race, when you go to a drag show, you're expecting a certain type of drag. And then anyone who's not that certain type of drag- [they're] still celebrated, but it's [kind of] against the norm," she explains.
That "certain type of drag" refers to cis-gendered queer or straight men who are most commonly portrayed as drag queens on drag television shows.
For drag kings and things, this new expectation means they have to carve out even more space than before. "We've seen more drag kings in the city being booked, but it's the same ones. So we wanted to really make a space for only drag kings and things," says Toddy of her Party Dogs drag brunch show.
"There's a misconception that drag kings and things are a new concept," she adds.
"But we've been here since the beginning of performing. If you look back at, say, the cabaret era, there are so many drag kings throughout the history of performing. And it's frustrating when we're saying stuff like 'drag originated in Shakespeare,' which is men dressing up as women. But that was back when women weren't allowed on stage. And so I think we need to take that into consideration when we look and think about the history of drag," she explains.
Drag becoming mainstream may have created a new image for what drag looks like, but drag continues to be for everyone, including drag kings and things. "There are amazing shows like 'Man Up' that have birthed so many amazing drag kings," says Toddy. "But I think there's a big push now to bring them back to the stage."
"Man Up" is a "multi-gender drag spectacular and queer dance party in East Vancouver," states the event's Facebook page. It's just one of the many drag events in the city, just like Toddy's drag brunch show, Party Dogs.
The bi-weekly drag brunch is hosted by Good Dogs Plant Foods, offering a fully vegan brunch with performances from Toddy, Heathen, King Fisher and special guests. The show is welcome to all ages.