Traveling solo in one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in Asia, I knew I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to finally pop my drag cherry and go to a drag show in Bangkok.
I’d never been to a drag bar before. And the entirety of my drag knowledge came from having watched one season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. That was enough to make me fall in love with the art of drag. But it was woefully short of preparing me to actually witness a drag show in Bangkok.
You see, drag queens have a reputation for being mean and fierce. Not in a bad way, in a funny way. That’s part of the charm. But if you’re naturally awkward like me, it can get quite intimidating. Again, all part of the charm.
Stranger Bar definitely turned out to be one of my best experiences in Gay Bangkok. It’s a small and dingy cocktail bar located in the popular gay district of soi 4. It also has a reputation for hosting the raunchiest, funniest drag shows in Bangkok, featuring the fishiest of queens.
I walked through the beaded blue curtains of the bar as bare-chested boys gestured for me to walk in. I made the grave error of feigning confidence and walking straight up to the front row seat and plopping down. Big mistake.
As I soon learnt, drag queens have a knack for detecting awkwardness. I’m not kidding here. They enjoy initiating fresh meat into the world of drag by thoroughly reading them. And if they sense you’re an easy target? Boy, you best be prepared to become the butt of their jokes at least a couple of times.
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For those who don’t know: “Reading” is a time-honored tradition of queens savagely ripping you to shreds using nothing but their words as weapons. Think Santana Lopez from Glee if she waltz’d around in red 12-inch sequin heels, face beat for the gods!
Seated up front, I’d already made myself an easy target. To top that off, I looked naturally awkward, and was clearly there for the first time. One of the queens went gentle on me though. After lip-syncing to a Nicki Minaj number, she walked over and asked me if I was a newbie. When I responded with a little squeak, she moved on. Phew!
However, I then committed the cardinal sin of visibly refusing to order a drink when the menu was brought over. That really invoked the ire of the drag queen and she gave me a mouthful about being a greedy ho’. You see, the bar didn’t take an entrance fee. So it was a dick move on my part to take a seat but not order anything.
The drag queen then brought two glasses over, poured me a drink and started pouring one out for herself as well. In my nervousness, I started gulping down the liquor before she’d even finished pouring herself a glass.
Naturally, she took offense, and again called me a greedy ho’, before clinking glasses for a cheers, taking a sip, and moving on to tend to other less-awkward members. I was flushed and thoroughly embarrassed by my bumbling idiocy.
On another night, I’d gone to the bar with a guy I’d met earlier that day. It was his first time to a drag show in Bangkok.
One of the queens stopped before him during one of her performances. She took off his glasses and put it on herself. She then took a sip off his cocktail, took a step back, and then sprayed him with a fountain! He later claimed that moment gave him life!
So just know this… if you’re going to a drag show in Bangkok, you best be prepared for anything.
The drag show in Stranger Bar isn’t like a lot of other drag shows in Southeast Asia. It’s not purely based on lip-syncing.
The drag queens often interact with the audience members. They even play these funny games wherein you have the chance of scoring a free “sperm shot”.
In case you’re wondering, no they don’t actually make you ingest sperms. It’s some kind of a tequila that they’ve playfully termed a “sperm shot.” That should be a good illustration of the kind of raunchy humor this drag show in Bangkok liked to indulge in.
They sometimes play pop tunes for a few seconds and you have to guess the name of the artist and the song. If you guess correctly, you get a free sperm shot! Sometimes, they invite a bunch of people onstage and make them dance. The one who gets the most audience approval, gets a whole tray of sperm shots!
When the drag queens weren’t distributing sperm shots, they were playfully flirting with guys in the audience, sitting on their laps, and often indulging in raunchy simulations of sex. They might even kiss you. But try and touch them without their consent and you might just get your face clapped.
Lip-syncing is probably the most revered of art forms that any drag queen must master.
Stranger Bar had some of the most hilarious and raunchy drag queens I’ve come across. Yet they could just as easily strip that down and get their DreamGirls on! I saw the same set of drag queens transform themselves into people as wildly divergent as Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, or Beyoncé!
And they could maintain their impersonation all while doing crazy death drops and aerobic splits!
Based on what I observed, there are a couple of things you shouldn’t do in a drag bar. These are things that should seem fairly obvious to any decent person, yet I still saw plenty of it.
I noticed that some of the guys would wave small notes before the drag queens. As if to suggest that they had to “earn” it. That is plain obnoxious, boy. They’re already strutting around on 10-inch heels, all tucked up, entertaining your entitled ass, I’d say they’ve earned plenty.
While one of the queens was performing Beyoncé’s “Listen”, another guy walked up to her and started lip-syncing along. She played along for 3 seconds and then gently pushed him back, as if to suggest he was done. But he didn’t take the hint and he stood right next to her, lip-syncing through the whole song!
This was excruciating to watch! I didn’t understand why nobody was screaming “dude what the fuck are you doing!” I know you probably think you’re a legit diva from all your experience prancing around in your bedroom. We get it! You’ve done it, I’ve done it, most adolescent gay boys have done it. Behind locked doors we’re ALL Beyoncé fucking Knowles.
But still, you never try to steal a performer’s spotlight!
Now for the most egregious part. A lot of guys in this drag bar in Bangkok didn’t seem to understand boundaries.
Yes, the drag queen sometimes might come over and interact with you. Yes, they might get raunchy sometimes. But it’s a performance! It doesn’t give you the right to grope them!
I saw this a couple of times. Some pretty boy would start rubbing up against a drag queen. And if she asked them to get off playfully, they’d take that as a challenge and start groping even more! This is sexual harassment, plain and simple.
When this happened, the drag queen couldn’t seem to do anything but protest in a mock-angry manner. That’s not a challenge for you to go on. That’s a clear indication that she’s uncomfortable but doesn’t have the liberty to display anger for real.
TAKE. THE. HINT!
Anyway, enough of my ranting on about my experience at this drag show in Bangkok. Hopefully, this article will help you figure out what to expect if you’re stepping past the threshold of drag queens for the first time.
Most of the titles used in this article aren’t my own invention. Alas! They’ve come directly from RuPaul or from Drag culture in general. Just thought it would be wise to leave a disclaimer in case some of ya’ll are sharpening your stiletto heels already.
Having said that, buh-bye, and take care!
I can be quite socially awkward occasionally. Sometimes, during these intermittent periods of social waywardness…