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Shane

photo by Yvon Bauman

"Iím a woman with facial hair, imitating a man, and I canít get you pregnant.†† And I have breasts! Youíve got everything!† What more could you ask for?Ē -- Shane

"Wow. Shane is so sexy!" Maureen Fischer was standing right behind me, and I couldn't help but agree with her assessment. Smooth and intense, Shane's sex appeal is all the more alluring for a certain kind of confidence he displays. While all of the kings are sexy in some way, performers like Mo B. Dick and Murray Hill do not set out specifically to be so. A king like Drťd, by contrast, is sexy up front, and primarily so. But while Drťd's tight-faced strut conveys the practiced fullness of a character well-crafted, Shaneís stroll through the crowd is underplayed and loose, and one feels certain his aplomb comes not from character, but from within. The things that make him attractive seem intrinsic.

This might be because Shane is, simply, Shane. I had a great deal of difficulty eliciting another name from her, and when I explained that I needed a way to distinguish, for my readers, between the persona and the person, she replied, "They're really one and the same." It was a telltale remark, because she is in fact so genuine. She may play a man on stage, but his essence is the same as hers. "I don't do characters," Shane told me, or at least, she hasn't done them seriously since Club Casanova. "I may do something that might be close to a character. I'm gonna† deal with Usher or something like that; I may wear certain clothing. Sometimes I'll do the 70's thing. With certain things, you have to kinda give people that afro thing, those sideburns, with the cut. Sometimes you gottaí do those things to get people into the feeling. But I donít really like doing characters. What I do is I take a song that I like, and I make it me, and I just give off what I feel from the song."

The man Shane plays is pretty much herself, then, in a male guise. He can take the stage in classic hip-hop, b-boy style -- baggy jeans and Kangol cap -- or in a fresh-pressed suit and tie; either way, his aura is the same, and one gets the feeling heís a fellow one might actually respect. "If I were a man," the woman said, "Iíd be a perfect gentleman." Instead, he is perhaps the most gentlemanly of the drag kings; when asked once what it meant to be a drag king, he responded: "It means showing men and women how women should be treated" (Halberstam, 1997). His brand of maleness and masculinity is far more tribute than parody, and it lacks a lot of the anger, aggression, and perversity one sees in other acts. He is really Shane, and she is really him; the reason he is so sexy, I suggest, is because his sensuality is in fact her own.

Respectful and respectable, Shaneís solo act is powerful nonetheless, equally exciting, erotic, and accurate. Sometimes heíll enter with his back to the audience and work an imaginary mirror before him, arranging the hat on his head to his satisfaction before turning to face the crowd. He likes to work the hat a lot, tracing the brim with his fingertips, re-settling it at a more jaunty angle. His hands are very prominent, with fingers held together straight like a salute except the thumb is sticking out. His mannerisms and hand movements may help to put the number over, but itís more the way he carries himself -- the extremely upright posture, the open-legged, long-armed stance -- that conveys the message, "male." It reads like a physical expression of assertiveness, a bodily way of saying, "I own this space Iím standing in."

Before long, Shane steps down off of the stage that separates him from the crowd and enters into their ranks. Approaching one of the women, heíll "sing" to her, kiss her hand, maybe dance closely with her a bit before moving on. The women adore him and, pushing past their friends to get their hands on him, keep him from returning to the stage by stuffing dollar bills into his shirt and elsewhere. "Sometimes I have to remember," Shane laughed, "get your ass back on the stage. Get back on stage! Everybody canít see you; you canít be everywhere at once. You gotta give everybody a view at the same time." She does prefer the "one-on-one thing," though, because it "involves people more." "And," she added wryly, "sometimes people are afraid to come up on stage to give tips. Sometimes you gottaí go out there and get it. Youíd be surprised how many tips you get if you go out in the audience."

Shane does not always work alone. Accompanied by drag kings Nico and Sugah and known collectively as "DK," the trio lip-synchs numbers by vocal groups like Boys to Men and the Jacksons; heís also worked quite a bit with Drťd. These well-choreographed bits point out that while all the kings are specialists in movement, lip-synching kings like Shane and Drťd are really dancers. They rely on their bodies to communicate maleness, over and above any words. Shane, nonetheless, is tired of lip-synching. "I donít like the whole lip-synching thing," she admitted, "but you gotta start somewhere." She plans to start singing soon, and perhaps to do it as a woman. "Iíve learned that I donít want to lip-synch. Iíve learned that I possibly do not want to do drag. I really just want to be myself on stage a lot of the time, since I am doing that already, but itís just that I have this facial hair on."

Shane and I met for a discussion in the West Village one evening after sheíd finished working; I probably wouldnít have recognized her were she not standing on the corner and looking around rather obviously for me. When I asked her what she did, she told me that she was a security manager, which neatly explained the black slacks, white shirt, and blue jacket. It occurred to me then that it is the sort of job that might be popular with women who are uncomfortable in feminine dress; the requisite uniform affords both an escape from the confines of womenís clothing and a reasonable excuse for the adoption of traditionally masculine garments. Itís also a distinctly non-traditional job for a woman to hold. But despite the butch trappings and her incredibly short hair, Shane is in fact a beautiful and feminine woman with great, deep, soulful eyes.

"I donít think Iím butch," she affirmed, choosing instead to call herself an "aggressive femme." I asked her if she thought that being a lesbian had anything to do with being a drag king. "I donít think that it has to. I think someone can be straight and do drag, definitely." Considering the matter further, she added, "I think itís unlikely, probably, or maybe there are few and far between, but I donít think there has to necessarily be a connection. Youíd have to be a really, really good actress, though, performing for women. Because to do it, you have to have some type of -- I would think -- have some type of knowledge, or be involved in sex with women, somewhat. I kinda get that feeling. Hmmm." So it isnít necessary, she believes, but it helps.

"For me," she continued, "dragging is a feeling, a kind of feeling. I always have this idea that I always want to be every womanís fantasy. I like to create that with the hair and the clothing, and the way I act." To be complete, she believes, the fantasy does not necessarily require a "packy." "Sometimes itís uncomfortable," she explained. "I donít really wear the dildo thing,ícause itís just too much. Too in the way. I donít really know how some people use it. I like to dance a lot, and I canít really dance with that on. I use a sock. A sock, sometimes you get a little better effect. For me anyway. And a really tight pair of briefs sometimes, to keep it in place."

A large part of the fantasy is the fact that she is indeed a woman, and so it makes sense that she usually does not "pack." "I feel like itís a great thing to be a woman," she told me. "I think you have a lot of power being a woman. I believe that. I have that confidence." And so she strips sometimes, just to "let you know Iím still a woman, and to just put the cherry on top of that whole fantasy. Iím a woman with facial hair, imitating a man, and I canít get you pregnant. And I have breasts! Youíve got everything! What more could you ask for?" Of course, a woman with so much to offer other women may sometimes find herself competing with men. Itís something sheís sometimes wary of when performing at straight venues. "I think itís tougher with a straight audience. I really worry about the men. I donít worry about the women; I just worry about the men. Because men get angry at certain things. They have issues. Sometimes they canít cope."

"Are you afraid youíre gonna piss them off?"

"Sometimes, yeah."

"Just by being sexy?" I inquired. "By not having a dick and being sexy? Is that not allowed?" We both laughed.

"By their girlfriends going crazy and figuring, ĎOh, what the fuckí,"she grinned, suggesting that a woman might decide to leave her boyfriend and go home with her. †She was only half joking, though, and her comment belies the reality that a heterosexual man can feel that his relationship with a particular woman may be threatened by the presence of a lesbian. On the one hand, such ambiguously gendered eroticism does indeed have the potential to open up minds; on the other, it suggests a revival of the Victorian notion that a normal (read: "feminine") straight woman can be vulnerable to the lures of a "mannish" lesbian. Either way is fine with Shane; as she would have it, all women are vulnerable to the attractions of a charming drag king.

Source:† http://www.laurenhasten.com/testbuild/academgenderlh.htm#shane

www.FemmeNoir.net ©2001

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