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‘Drag breaks down inhibitions’

New York city’s famous drag queen and activist peppermint is in india for a three-city tour where she will campaign for the rights of the lgbtq+ community and against patriarchy

Anges Moore, known by her stage name Peppermint, is an American actress, singer, television personality and — drag queen. Known as New York City’s ultimate drag queen, she is on a three-city tour in India, starting from Mumbai and ending  in Delhi. She’s best known as the runner-up on the ninth season of American show — RuPaul’s Drag Race. Moore was the first openly trans woman to participate in the show. In a conversation with Patriot, Peppermint talks about the transgender community in India, decriminalisation of homosexuality, the challenges and discrimination she faces and the lens through which people see the art of drag.

What brings you to India?

I’m here for a three-city tour, starting from Mumbai. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the art of drag, to talk about trans empowerment and connect to the LGBTQ+ community. This is my style and this is what I do to connect with the drag world and our community.

How do you see the transgender community in India?

I think it’s going in the right direction. It’s moving along slowly, but it’s moving and I think everything has to progress nationally. Especially when it comes to the transgender community, I don’t want people to think that the work is finished. The murder rate of transgender individuals, the amount of discrimination transgender women usually face — all these are international issues.

How do you see the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India?

I think the community is driving through a positive change with the decriminalisation of homosexuality.  It’s crazy that anything about human sexuality would be criminal in the first place. Thus, this change allows people to be more open-minded and gives people a licence to not feel inhibited.

As a trans woman and drag queen, what are the biggest obstacles you face every day?

I am very privileged and grateful that I am getting the opportunity to perform and travel around the world — that’s very rare. But, the challenges which I face today, are very different from the challenges I faced in the past. They would’ve been very different had I not been on television.

I had my inhibitions while choosing between a career as a drag queen and being true to myself as a trans woman. I didn’t want to choose between who I am and what I love. Before being on television, I didn’t have the money to start my medical transition.

In America, I came to a position where I had to choose between survival and sex work. At that time, I thought ‘Do I need to engage in sex work in order to pay my bills and medical expenses?’ And I didn’t want to do that. So, I chose drag instead and it stopped me from having to do that.

Is there any discrimination within the community?

Before and after the drag race, I see that there’s discrimination within the community. Because the LGBTQ+ community is made of different genders — male, female, non-binary. Also, people of different regions, different races, different nationalities and different economic status. There’s a lot of opportunity for people to be prejudiced and discriminatory, or for them to be racist or misogynist or exclusionary. So those things exist.

The same problems exist in congressional societies and traditional societies too. At least in the United States, the assumption is that anyone who is queer is open minded and gets along with everyone, but that’s not necessarily true.

What is drag to you?

Under the traditional definition, drag is a man who gets dressed in women’s clothing for entertainment.  While there is some truth to that, of course, I would like to stick to another definition of drag — which is anyone can do it, as long as it’s entertaining.

Do LGBTQ+ and heterosexual people see it differently?

I think yes. It’s very complicated because when we talk about drag, we talk about these different layers and it’s more than just entertainment.  Drag is sort of activism, it’s about challenging stereotypes.

And the truth is — in traditional western cultures and in many others, in heteronormative society, people who are heterosexuals, they don’t necessarily usually challenge the status quo in the way that gay or lesbian or bisexual or people who are gender non-conforming or transgender do. We challenge the status quo and gender stereotypes differently than the average heterosexual people. Our weak points and advantage points are very different. We view drag as a tool. People in the queer community and drag artists view it as a tool to dismantle the patriarchy. That’s the power of drag.

I think many heterosexual people view drag as just entertainment.

People view us as entertainers, and because everyone loves entertainment, they will invite us into their homes but will not understand what we are doing is challenging the notion of gender stereotypes, traditions, patriarchy and misogyny.

Do you think there will be some Indian representation on RuPauls’ Drag Race in the future?

Well, I don’t know. I think right now RuPaul’s Drag Race has started as an American show, but it will change and will start gaining recognition around the world. I don’t know whether they will be inviting people internationally to come to do the American version, but we have already seen a very successful version in Thailand (Drag Race Thailand). But yes, I think there should be a RuPaul Drag Race in India too.

Any message for the LGBTQ+ community in India?

My message for the community here in India is that you have the all of the strength, tools and power to control your destiny. Even if you face challenges, you have support from around the world, and my support as well…