Every night in most major cities, our nation’s drag queens tuck their dicks between their legs and brave oft-hostile streets in stilettos to put on subversive shows for the inebriated. They do so for the fun, for the cash, or because they want to show off their contouring skills. On most nights, though, they receive a different type of attention than the one they bargained for: specifically, the unsettling adulation of drag chasers.
“There’s one in every audience,” the New York drag queen Miz Cracker tells me. “They don’t care if you’re sweaty, or that your wig is falling off, and they seem to be oblivious to the fact that you’re duct-taped shut downstairs.”
Back in 2009, RuPaul herself recorded a track about drag amorous men, expressing her frustration with the ones who awkwardly stare at her when she’s on stage but fail to introduce themselves. Called “Tranny Chaser,” the lyrics go, “Is some tranny chasers up in here / welcome to my stratosphere. Make a move / what you wanna do / I don’t got no time for a lookie-loo boo.”
Drag chasers aren’t the same as straight-identified trans “admirers” although they seem to share a few characteristics: they can be aggressive, for one, and their seemingly faux naiveté can be a big turn off, Mizz says. “They’re always like ‘Oh it’s my first time at a gay bar,’ but I ask the queen I’m working with and she says they’re there every night.”
Of course, a chaser’s attention can be flattering, but their thirstiness — especially the aggressive ones — can be distracting, even insulting, she says. Do they think the queens are there to put on a private show just for them?
“It’s diminishing,” Cracker, whose most iconic hairstyle looks just like her name, tells me. “When you come out the door, you want to be adored by six million people. That’s my goal: I want all of America to love me to death. When someone says, ‘Come over here and have a beer,’ it’s like, I’m here to float around and be untouchable. If I was happy getting attention from one person, I would not be a drag queen.”
It’s also weird being hit on by a man seemingly more enamored with your facade than he is with you, especially when he continues to insist that he’s straight. On Reddit’s r/gay forum, one queen described being hit on by a straight-identified man who wouldn’t stop saying “I can’t believe you have a dick, you’re so hot babe, I can’t believe you’re a dude!” throughout their entire encounter. “Drag chasers take things at face value,” Mizz says. “They know [your persona]is a shell but they want to fuck the shell.” Or, as Hedda Lettuce says in a YouTube video, “You could put a wig on a brick and they’d fuck it.”
Are drag queens a gateway to gay or bi sex? According to Heklina, the founder of San Francisco’s iconic monthly drag show Trannyshack, men who are straight-identified but enjoy a romp with a drag queen could simply be looking for a wilder sexual experience.
“I talked about that once with a really hot guy from Minnesota [who said]that if you want stuff to be very soft, then be with a woman, but if you want it a little rougher or be thrown around a little bit, then get with a [drag queen].”
But when your look is “Dada Barbie Doll,” sex can be a logistical nightmare. On an episode of UNHhhh, drag queen Katya Zamolodchikova describes a gender-bending encounter with an olive-skinned dreamboat that had to be cut short because, as she says, “my makeup was making me look like an extra in ‘Night of the Living Dead.’” A member in the RuPaul’s Drag Race Reddit forum puts it thusly: “drag costuming is not conducive to sexytimes,” adding, ”I’ve been told by many queens just how stank the candy gets, cooking under four layers of pantyhose.”
“There are so many layers of adhesive and makeup between you and reality that it’s just not worth the physical effort to ‘peel the onion,’” Cracker adds.
“There are so many layers of adhesive and makeup between you and reality that it’s just not worth the physical effort.”
That said, some queens have harnessed the power bestowed upon them by admirers to pick up guys who would otherwise be out of their league. “As you know in the gay world, Asian guys aren’t typically on top of the desirable list so it’s not easy for me to find an attractive guy who’s attracted to me,” Samantha, another drag queen in New York, tells me via email. “However, when I’m an Asian woman, the hunt is so much easier. I can fuck a version of the hot guy I saw at the gym… or the free clinic.”
Samantha adds that she’s what chasers describe as a “fishy queen”; therefore, a lot of the men she meets are also into trans girls. When I asked if she was ever creeped out by attention, she replied, “Hell no! I love the attention from these ‘straight’ guys.”
But for Cracker, keeping up the charade of a drag persona for an entire weekend, as Samantha does, seems exhausting. If she didn’t feel that way, she augers she could fund a lavish lifestyle. “If you don’t mind being around strange people, you can fly around the world.”
She’d only make an exception for a particularly gorgeous man who comes to all of her shows. “He stares at me with these big puppy eyes,” she says. “And it’s been going on like this for a year!”
She doesn’t feel creeped out by his attention because, unlike many drag chasers, he seems comfortable with his desires. Sometimes she’ll even sit on his lap. “It can feel like a very genuine connection,” she says. “And if you’re a drag queen, you have super low standards for ‘real.’ If it feels that way just a little bit, it’s real enough for you.”