Drag Kings And Queens Find Their Tribe In Annual 'Homo For The Holidays' Everyone celebrates the holidays differently. For some, the holidays mean stuffing men into sparkling dresses, using a giant candy cane as a stripper poll, and making the yuletide as gay as possible.
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Drag Kings And Queens Find Their Tribe In Annual 'Homo For The Holidays'

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Drag Kings And Queens Find Their Tribe In Annual 'Homo For The Holidays'

Drag Kings And Queens Find Their Tribe In Annual 'Homo For The Holidays'

Drag Kings And Queens Find Their Tribe In Annual 'Homo For The Holidays'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/506045569/506045570" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Everyone celebrates the holidays differently. For some, the holidays mean stuffing men into sparkling dresses, using a giant candy cane as a stripper poll, and making the yuletide as gay as possible.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Everyone has a different way of celebrating the holidays. And for some, it's stuffing men into sparkling dresses, using a giant candy cane as a stripper pole, and making the Yuletide as gay as possible. A troop of drag and burlesque performers in Seattle mark every December with a show called "Homo For The Holidays." From Seattle, Matt Baume reports.

MATT BAUME, BYLINE: Thirty minutes to curtain and Marc Kenison, also known as Waxie Moon, is putting the finishing touches on his costume.

MARC KENISON: I am wearing a glorious sparkly purple leotard and a purple tutu and purple character shoes and beautiful wings and giant purple bows in my mustache-slash-beard - oh, and a crown.

BAUME: It's an annual Seattle tradition. "Homo For The Holidays" is a glittery live show of drag kings and queens all singing and dancing their way through holiday standards with a twist.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "HOMO FOR THE HOLIDAYS")

BENJAMIN PUTNAM: (As character, singing) In fact, it's the most wonderful time to be queer!

BAUME: The show's laden with seasonal jokes, from the self-centered Sugar Plum Fairy...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "HOMO FOR THE HOLIDAYS")

KENISON: (As Sugar Plum Fairy) It is literally so nice to meet you. Here, shake this. This is my selfie hand. Do you think I should get bangs?

(LAUGHTER)

BAUME: ...To the Jewish neighbors named Menorah and Dreidel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "HOMO FOR THE HOLIDAYS")

REBECCA DAVIS: (As Menorah Lezowitz, singing) My mother always made a dish - not a bagel, maybe knish. Something 'bout gefilte fish sings to you.

(LAUGHTER)

BAUME: But along with the laughs is a heartfelt message. Susanna Welbourne, whose stage name is Kitten LaRue, plays an angel seeking her wings. She's also one of the show's producers.

SUSANNA WELBOURNE: It's an exploration of what chosen family means and can mean during this time of year for people who have complicated relationships with their families.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "HOMO FOR THE HOLIDAYS")

PUTNAM: (As character) Tonight, you are all honorary homosexuals.

(APPLAUSE)

PUTNAM: (As character) The gift of gay is the greatest gift I have to give.

BAUME: Similar productions exist around the country, including the touring shows "Christmas Queens" and "Drag Queen Christmas." Backstage at "Homo For The Holidays," performer Ben Putnam, who bears a striking resemblance to the character BenDeLaCreme, says this has been a particularly exhausting year.

PUTNAM: We talk about it as a chance to gather together and sort of bask in each other's glow and gather strength for the year to come because there are - there are battles. There are always battles. And right now, there are even more battles.

BAUME: Just before intermission, it's revealed that Santa's term has ended.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "HOMO FOR THE HOLIDAYS")

PUTNAM: (As character) Santa is gone, and he's been replaced with this ham.

(LAUGHTER)

KENISON: (As Sugar Plum Fairy) Maybe we should just give the ham a chance.

BAUME: Another of the show's producers is Ricki Mason, better known as the drag king Lou Henry Hoover.

RICKI MASON: I think that sometimes people forget that drag and burlesque and cabaret all began as very subversive art forms.

BAUME: In fact, the show concludes with a tribute to the work of civil rights pioneers, or as BenDeLaCreme calls them...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "HOMO FOR THE HOLIDAYS")

PUTNAM: (As character) The folks who worked for decades so hard so that we could come together and feel each other's worth and gather strength for the year to come. Just doing some funny dances, wearing some goofy outfits, saying happy holidays, homo.

(CHEERING)

BAUME: For those who feel like outsiders, attending a drag show like "Homo For The Holidays" and finding one's tribe can be as meaningful as a midnight mass. It's hard to ignore the fact that not everyone wants these chosen families to thrive, but that fact is what makes celebrating them so important.

For NPR News, I'm Matt Baume in Seattle.

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