Getting to Know Non-Binary Drag Artist Rose Butch
Not a drag king nor a queen, the Vancouver local is doing the “drag thing” their own way.
Vancouver Pride doesn’t even take place until August, but for Rose Butch, Pride is more than a week- or month-long celebration. With the preferred pronoun “they” instead of “he” or “she,” Rose has been looking for a gender-bending space for themselves not only on a personal level, but also in the drag world.
Not a drag king or queen in the traditional sense, the non-binary, Canadian creative tells us about offering a new experience on stage: “I think that what I’m doing is just expanding the conventions of drag, and adding another voice to the conversation.” Breaking out of the confines of being one or the other, Rose’s drag style is a seamless blend of feminine and macho – on the day of our shoot, they styled themselves in a bejewelled bustier and some buttercup yellow, satin heel boots, with heart-shaped freckles placed under their eyes and their signature pencil moustache perfectly drawn above their charismatic grin. Much like their sartorial choices, Rose would perform to songs regardless of whether they’re by a female or male artist.
We’re invited to Rose’s apartment as they get drag-ready, which usually takes about two hours for those who’re curious. From where to shop for the best glitter glue to how drag empowers them as a queer person, we’ve certainly learned a thing or two during our enjoyable encounter. Read on to learn more about Rose Butch and their inspiring story.
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How did you first discover drag? When was it that you knew you wanted to become a drag performer yourself?
My first “exposure” to drag was most likely through watching Some Like It Hot with my parents when I was seven — looking back that was a strange choice for them, since they’re otherwise pretty conservative people. When I was 20, I was at an art and performance showcase for queer youth and saw a number by local legend Ponyboy (who is now a part of my drag family) and it was the first time I’d seen a drag king perform, which was one of those time-stopping moments of seeing possibilities that I did not know existed. It wasn’t until two years later in 2012 after I’d been going drag shows semi-regularly, when I saw Tranapus Rex performing that I knew that there could be space for someone like me in the drag world, and I started doing little experiments with glitter in my basement bedroom.
I feel empowered by the idea of taking society’s restrictive gender roles — which can follow trans folks no matter where they go in transition — and dissolving them to create something fun, cheeky, powerful and sexy.
We know that your performances don’t really follow the conventions of drag. How did you come up with that idea?
I think that what I’m doing is just expanding the conventions of drag, and adding another voice to the conversation, and hopefully making room for other voices to be heard as well. I was very inspired by other trans and gender-variant drag artists, and I feel empowered by the idea of taking society’s restrictive gender roles — which can follow trans folks no matter where they go in transition — and dissolving them to create something fun, cheeky, powerful and sexy.
In what ways does drag serve as an outlet for your creative and gender expression?
Well, I’m a Pisces with a lot of feelings, and having my drag practice and the persona of Rose Butch to be a creative outlet for all of those feelings is definitely something that I can take for granted sometimes. But yeah, having a drag persona is kind of like having an ongoing, indefinite art project. As I’ve been growing in my personal life over the past few years, I can see the growth and shifts in Rose Butch as well — the different ways that I choose to costume and dress my body and paint my face, the different ways that I want to move, or songs that resonate with me and tell my story. Especially as a non-binary person going through transition publicly, it can also feel overwhelming at times, but I’m grateful to have it.
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride is about gratitude — I feel that there are so many freedoms and privileges that my generation get to enjoy because of the pioneers that brought down those walls that I don’t spend enough time thinking about. We owe a lot to trans folks, to trans women of color especially (Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson among them), who literally threw those first bricks at Stonewall, and who started the push for queer people to be seen and to gain rights, which is still a battle that we’re fighting today. Pride is about community, about coming together and being with our queer family and celebrating ourselves and each other. Some of us still don’t receive love and support around our queer identities from our birth families, so having a reason to be with chosen family is so important.
Pride is about community, about coming together and being with our queer family and celebrating ourselves and each other.
Who are some of your queer role models?
Ugh, so many, and I’m definitely going to forget to name some and then think of them later. Okay, off the top of my head, in musicians, I love the boldness and flair of Freddie Mercury, the tenderness and honesty of Rae Spoon, and the dynamism and strength of St. Vincent. I’m Japanese-Canadian and grew up with Star Trek, so I’ve also really looked up to George Takei and the role that he played in bringing representation to television, as well has how he’s currently using his platform in social activism. In terms of drag artists, I love Sasha Velour — her drag is so visually inspirational and she’s always been inclusive in programming her shows with a diverse queer performers of all bodies, race and gender expressions, whether they’re doing drag or burlesque.
Where can our readers expect to see your performances?
All over Vancouver! You can count to see me at “Man Up,” an all-genders extravaganza on the last Saturday of every month at East Side Studios. I’m usually pretty good at promoting my shows on my Instagram, and I have a big calendar of shows coming up for Vancouver Pride Week (July 30 to August 5, 2018) so give us a follow and stay tuned.
- Image Credit
- Garrett Riffal/@wizardof32oz