German is a drag
Here is the transcript of the episode German is a drag. You can read more about this episode on the episode web page.
The transcript has been edited for readability.
LG = Luke Green
SR = Sassica Rabbit
RT = Ryta Tale
LG: Hi everyone, Luke here, and welcome to another episode of Yellow of the Egg. Yes, it’s finally back. Before we begin, I just wanted to let you know that this podcast will be done a little differently going forward. There’ll be no more series like we had before with series 1 and 2, but instead there’ll just be episodes coming out as and when they’re ready to go out. If you don’t want to miss any episodes, you can subscribe to this podcast for free on your podcast app of choice, and follow Yellow of the Egg on Instagram @yotepodcast, that’s Y-O-T-E-Podcast. I’m really excited to be back, we’ve got some really great topics in the pipeline, including today’s one. So here is the episode.
Language touches every facet of our lives, and every social group and community will have its own idiosyncrasies. We talked about German in and around the queer community in a previous episode, and in this episode we’re going to dive deeper into the language surrounding one particular part of that community. Right now, the drag scene in Vienna is experiencing a period of real blossoming on the one hand, but it’s also under threat, as the right wing is trying hard to frame drag as a danger. Despite these attempts to push drag down, drag is becoming more and more mainstream and, as a result, more and more visible, and with it, the language of drag.
In this episode I talk to two drag artists from Vienna about what drag is, what language is used to describe it, and their own experiences as drag performers in Austria. Before we get going though, it’s important to stress here, perhaps more so than in other episodes, that we can really only scratch the surface here. There are so many styles of drag, so many different people do drag, we have drag kings, queens, monsters, you name it. Drag can be performed and enjoyed by women, men, cisgender people, transgender people, nonbinary people – literally everyone and anyone can do drag. If something isn’t mentioned in this episode, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or it’s not valid, we simply only have very limited time to talk about some topics to do with drag and the language surrounding it. I’ll put links and more information in the shownotes and on the website, please do take a look to get a fuller picture.
And a quick content warning: we use some words and slurs that some might find offensive. Check the shownotes for a heads-up on those.
So with all that being said, enough intro stuff, let’s crack on with the show.
I’m Luke Green and this is Yellow of the Egg, the podcast where the German language is the eyes of the face. Today I’m joined by Sassica Rabbit and Ryta Tale for this episode: German is a drag.
SR: Well, drag for me is just an expression of being yourself and, like, to express your art, your art form. So, drag can be everything and anything. For me personally, it’s just the drag queen of it all. So, I want to impersonate some sort of woman in that sense.
RT: I think it’s a form of expressing yourself. It’s playing with gender roles. So, men turn into women, women turn into men, or maybe women turn into even more “woman”, or being an over-feminised version of themselves. So, I think drag is an art form that knows no limits.
SR: My name is Sassica Rabbit, and I’m a drag queen from Vienna. I’m doing drag since 2016, so I’m doing it a bit longer than some of the others here in the room. And how would I describe my drag? It’s a bit over the top, it’s a bit milfy, and it’s just fun.
RT: I’m Ryta Tale. I started doing drag in summer 2021. My drag is all about being fun, bubbly, girly, entertaining, and I’m known for my comedy mixes I do on stage.
LG: Sassica Rabbit and Ryta Tale are well-known performers in the Viennese drag scene. I use the word performer here because not every drag artist is a drag queen. There are lots of different styles of drag that come with different words we can use. Ryta and Sassica have their preferences when it comes to how they describe themselves.
RT: I would consider myself as a drag queen. Sometimes I refer to myself as a drag artist to be more inclusive. But yeah, I’m a drag queen, using pronouns she/her in drag, using pronouns he/him out of drag.
SR: Same goes for me. I can only repeat. So, I would also consider myself a drag queen or a drag artist.
LG: Terms like drag queen and drag king are very common, even in German. In fact, there aren’t really any German terms that mean quite the same thing.
RT: No, not really. We use the term Dragqueen, Dragking, Drag, for what we do. There is no German equivalent.
LG: Though there are some words that do come close.
RT: Travestie is a word that is used in that world, context, but it’s not necessarily the same thing as drag, because Travestie is more about impersonating celebrities or public-
RT: Yeah, musicians, public figures. And drag is more creating a star yourself.
SR: A persona for yourself. You don’t want to imitate anyone. And if you do, you probably mock this person more. And Travestie is very, you wanna be as close as you can get to this person you’re doing.
RT: Sometimes I call my art form, or what I do, my drag persona, Travestie, but it’s just for fun, just making fun of it, because I would say it’s something completely different, yes.
SR: I think sometimes it overlaps, but usually not. I think there are some artists out there who can do both, and do both, but they are more confident in one of those two. But I would say there is a kind of like a line to say, like, “OK, this is Travestie and this is drag”.
LG: Still, people in the German-speaking world who do drag might be described as Travestiekünstler*innen, for example by the media or on events listings. For some people, this description is fine for them. But Travestie as an art form goes further back than what we might understand to be ‘drag’ today.
SR: Travestie, or Travestiekünstler, for me are people who, in Austria and in Germany, have a longer tradition than drag queens, or drag itself, or drag artists. Because people tended to dress up as women, in that case for Travestiekünstler, a longer time before there was even some sort of drag, in a way. And I think there is a lot of respect to those Travestiekünstler*innen there. And for me, it’s still something different because they see things and perform differently than, like, drag artists. But it’s very valid, and very good that they were there because I think they paved the way for drag artists here, in Austria at least, that people kind of know already what you are doing, even though it might be different, or it is different.
RT: It definitely paved the way in Austria, in Germany, for the art form we’re doing now. There’s no judgement from my side which one is better or which one is more valid. It’s equally valid and good that we have it.
SR: Yeah, because as soon as you go somewhere and show up, that’s important. And whatever the people will call it, at the end of the day, you showed up, you showed yourself, and you taught them a lesson.
RT: Amen, sis! [laughter]
LG: For many of those who don’t see themselves as Travestiekünster*innen, the word drag is often much more fitting, which is why we see it used in German. As with a lot of anglicisms in German, though, it has taken on a grammatical life of its own. In English, you only really use the word drag on its own to refer to the art form as a whole, such as I do drag, or I like drag. To describe a person, you really need something after it: drag queen, drag king, drag artist. Not the case in German. You can be eine Dragqueen, ein Dragking, but also simply eine Drag. Though this isn’t favoured by everyone.
RT: I hate when people say that, actually. I would never say, “Ich bin eine Drag”. I would always say, “Ich bin eine Dragqueen”. Or “I do drag”, “Ich mache Drag”, but never, “Ich bin eine Drag”.
SR: I don’t think I said it to myself either, or someone else. Like, with Ryta the same, I guess.
LG: With one exception. Every year, Sassica co-organises the Lipstick Ball, a competition among drag artists in Vienna. The winner is crowned die neue Drag of the Night. Not drag queen of the night, not drag artist of the night, but just drag of the night.
SR: Yes, definitely. Because a few years back, there was still the “drag queen of the night”, or what did we call it? I think so.
RT: Just “Queen of the Night”, right?
SR: “Queen of the Night”, actually, yes. And we wanted to change it because we wanted to be more inclusive and not limit ourselves to someone who doesn’t see themselves as a “queen”. But we still use the female articles for “die neue Drag of the Night”, just because I personally feminise everything in drag.
RT: I mean, I’m not part of the Lipstick Crew, like, the inner circle, but I think it was “Queen of the Night”, and because you wanted to make it more inclusive, you just replaced the “Queen” with “Drag” and not with “Drag artist” because it’s so long. “Drag artist of the night” is very long.
SR: Way too long.
RT: And it doesn’t have a ring to it, right?
LG: You can see the word Drag being used on its own to describe drag artists all the time. Often, drag performers are simply called Drags in German. For example, in 2019 there was a TV show in Germany called Queen of Drags. While in English, this can sometimes come across as quite derogatory to call drag artists just ‘drags’, in German it’s fairly neutral, but everyone has their own preferences and feelings about it. On the subject of there not being a direct German equivalent of drag, the same goes for the verb phrase to do drag. How would you say this in German?
SR: Ich mache Drag.
RT: Yeah. No, this is the only term we really use. ‘I do drag’, ich mache Drag. Mhm.
SR: Yeah. I wouldn’t say it in any other way either.
RT: Manchmal verkleide ich mich. [laughs]
LG: Meaning ‘sometimes I dress up’.
RT: I never really say that.
SR: I say that to older people. So, everyone in my friend group. [laughter]
RT: Oh, I thought about older people! Older drag queens.
SR: No! Like, to explain myself to elderly people, maybe, or something.
RT: Die Kleinkunstprinzessin hat sich gestern wieder verkleidet. [laughter]
SR: No, about myself as well.
RT: Ok, yeah. To explain it to, like, grandparents. Yeah. Mhm.
SR: Because the word drag is not very common for generation 50 plus, I would say.
LG: When talking about drag, there are so many anglicisms that are the go-to words in place of any German equivalents. Ich hab ein neues Outfit, das ist ein geiler Look, das war eine tolle Performance. English is everywhere. So does German even come into it? Or would people usually just go straight for the English?
SR: Straight for the English. But thinking of it, of course you could say something like- You can’t even say Makeup, because Look is like Makeup as well. But, like, Kostüm? But this is not really German either.
RT: No, I-
SR: Kleidung? No.
RT: Yeah, no, no. I think we all use Outfits and Looks. But for performances, I sometimes say Nummer. Letztens hab ich die Nummer gemacht.
SR: Or Auftritt, maybe.
RT: Yeah, yeah. Nummer or Auftritt.
LG: As we said before, the same goes for the names we give to the types of drag performer. Drag king, drag queen, it’s easy to default to the English terms.
SR: I usually take all the English terms for it because it’s easier to describe as well.
RT: I think there are no German words for drag king. There’s nothing like Dragkönig. Drag monsters.
SR: Club kids.
RT: Club kids. Yeah. It all comes from America, so we’re using the English terms and never came up with our own German words.
LG: There are English terms like AFAB queen which are also often adopted directly into German. AFAB here being an acronym, A-F-A-B, which stands for Assigned Female At Birth. In simple terms, an AFAB queen is a cisgender woman who does drag as a drag queen. Not really talked about as much or given all the same opportunities as cisgender men who do drag. But when it comes to the term AFAB queen itself, again there isn’t really a German term for it.
SR: I think it’s in development, maybe, it might be. It’s still too new for a language, I think, to develop their own terms for everything. So that’s why we stick to English because it’s the best way to describe themselves.
RT: Yeah, also we hear these terms, we integrate it into the German language, and why would be come up with a German term for it if the English one is established in German?
LG: When it comes to drag events, a lot of them are given English names, too. Not all of them, of course, but a lot of them. Including the Lipstick Ball that I referred to before. Why didn’t Sassica go for the German Lippenstiftball?
SR: I mean, Lippenstiftball sounds stupid. [laughter] I think, well, when we brainstormed back in the day – because we’re a bit older now – we basically came up only with English things. Because it’s more catchy, people give it more attention, I think, as well. And because it’s so close to the whole drag, like, scene, and like- Yeah, basically because of the whole drag scene as well because you know that we use a lot of English words anyway, so why not give it an English title as well. And lipstick is a word where I’m like, OK, people know what it is. You don’t have to say, “It’s Lippenstift”. So, I think that’s as simple as that. It was really coming down to this because every time we thought about something in German, we were like, “Nah, it’s not catchy at all. Don’t even try.”
RT: I think so many drag terms have much more of a ring to it if you say it in English, and if you try to translate it, it’s like, uff. Like, schlachte Königin! ‘Slay queen!’ Like, you wouldn’t say that, right?
SR: I would, of course! It sounds so nice! German is a good language!
RT: It sounds much more fierce, I think, if you say it in English.
LG: We’ve said it very often on this podcast that English has this effect of being cool, modern, relevant. This is the case in so many areas of life nowadays. But especially when it comes to drag, there are some specific reasons for the abundance of English terms.
RT: I think that’s because of the influence of the American drag scene here in Europe, also in Austria and Germany. The influence of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and we all watch it, we all watch it in English, because the German synchronisation is something else. So, we watch it in English and take all the terms that also come from the ballroom scene back in the 80s, like slay, werk.
SR: Yass queen.
RT: Yass queen. That’s why we use a lot of English words in our everyday drag life.
LG: If you’re interested in learning more about the ballroom scene, I’ll put some information and links in the shownotes. In an attempt to find some German alternatives for all these English terms that are used in and around the drag scene here, I had a look at some online dictionaries. I entered some English words and phrases to do with drag, and asked Sassica and Ryta for their opinions on some of what these dictionaries said were the German equivalents. We’ll start with Leo.org. I typed in “Drag queen”, and one of the translations was simply die Dragqueen, one word.
RT: Die Dragqueen.
LG: Same website, another translation for “Drag queen” was der Transvestit.
SR: No. [laughs]
RT: Yeah, I mean, some call themselves Transvestit, ‘transvestite’. Also the term ‘transvestite’ used in the Rocky Horror Show. But not every drag queen is a transvestite.
SR: Yeah, I wouldn’t call it that. But maybe I’m too much tiptoeing there because I think if you call yourself ‘transvestite’, even though there is Rocky Horror with the song. For me, it’s a bit of a dangerous topic because you might offend trans people, and I don’t like that. So, I wouldn’t use it for myself because I think we’re drawing a line somewhere, and there is again a way of complicating things if you call yourself Transvestit.
RT: Yeah, because it can be confusing because the short form of Transvestit or ‘transvestite’ is ‘trans’, and transgender is also trans. So, I think that’s why we have to be careful because knowing the difference between transgender and transvestite or drag is very important.
LG: Again, check the shownotes for some further reading on the topic of this terminology. Same website now, and this time I typed in “Drag show”. One translation was die Travestieshow.
SR: Yeah, I mean…
RT: Not the same thing.
SR: Not the same thing. [laughs]
LG: As we heard earlier, Travestie isn’t completely the same thing as drag. I turned to dict.cc and typed in “Drag” there, and one of the German words that came up was der Fummel.
SR: Der Fummel? Oh!
RT: Well, I would- Fummel I would say is the-
RT: The outfit, yeah. The dress, the clothing we put on.
SR: “I do Fummel”. I’m just thinking about it. I’m a Fummelqueen.
RT: You wanna come to my Fummelshow?
SR: I’m a Fummelkönigin.
LG: So Fummel could be used to describe drag in terms of the clothes. I typed in the words “in drag” and out came im Fummel.
RT: No… Yeah, yeah.
SR: Yeah, I can see that. I can actually see that.
RT: It’s a bit trashy, I would say.
SR: It’s very Berlin.
SR: Very German style, I think. Because Fummel, Austrians don’t really say. But I can see German drag artists say, “Ich bin heute im Fummel”.
LG: Same website, and another German translation for “drag” was die Frauenkleidung, literally ‘women’s clothing’.
SR: No, no.
RT: It’s a ‘no’ from me. It’s a boot. Yeah, also, I mean, drag is not necessarily Frauenkleidung.
RT: Not anymore.
LG: This translation would restrict drag to just wearing women’s clothes, which is just not true for everyone. When I typed “drag” in on the Langenscheidt website, one translation was von Männern getragene Frauenkleidung. Much the same, but this time limited to men.
LG: I tried the website of the Duden for a possible definition of drag and asked Ryta and Sassica for their opinions. I typed in “drag queen” and got glamorös gekleideter und geschminkter Transvestit, so a ‘glamorously dressed and made-up transvestite’.
RT: I mean, what’s the definition of glamorous? What’s the definition of geschminkt, really? What’s- Yeah, no, mm-mm.
SR: I think it’s an explanation, again, for someone who doesn’t know at all, but if you know a bit, no.
RT: It’s very dated, I think.
SR: Yes. But don’t ask me for an update, I wouldn’t know either, in a short version for a dictionary or something. I would not.
RT: Yeah, me neither. It’s so complex that you cannot really describe it in just one sentence, what drag is.
LG: It’s worth noting here that there’s only a Duden entry for Dragqueen. They don’t have anything for Dragking, Drag artist, and so on.
SR: Oh, of course they don’t.
RT: Wah, wah, wahhh.
SR: There is still a long way to go.
LG: We also looked at the German Wikipedia page for Dragqueen, and here is an excerpt from the introduction as of the time of recording this episode:
“Eine Dragqueen ist eine Person (häufig ein Mann), die in künstlerischer oder humoristischer Absicht durch Aussehen und Verhalten eine Frau darstellt.
Eine Dragqueen hat eine weibliche Identität mit eigenem „Drag-Namen“. Sie unterscheidet sich von einem Travestie-Künstler in der Hinsicht, dass dieser in verschiedene Frauenrollen schlüpft, und von einer Tunte durch ihre Betonung glamouröser, divenhafter Weiblichkeit.”
RT: I mean, it’s a German definition, the German Wikipedia entry. I don’t know what the English one says. But in the German one, it says it’s different to Travestie, which we discussed already, and also using the term Tunte on the same level as Drag and Travestie, which I think is a bit odd because I never heard it before that being a Tunte is also an art form. I always connected the word Tunte with like-
SR: How much can we swear? Then I have the equivalent in English. Tunte is more or less – for me, if I would translate it – like ‘faggot’.
RT: Yeah. Mhm. Tunte is usually used as a slur in German. It’s like, I would put it on the same level as Schwuchtel, which is also ‘faggot’. Or, yeah, Schwuler. Also very negative.
LG: It’s not 100% certain where the word Tunte comes from in terms of its etymology. It’s speculated that it’s connected with the word Tante, which means ‘aunt’, but can also more generally be used as a derogatory term for a woman in colloquial speech, which is the meaning thought to have been transferred over to Tunte.
SR: But I did a bit of research as well, because I was interested. And people who call themselves Tunte have a very political statement behind it, and are very much the woman or girl next door. They don’t care about the looks because they just wanna keep the message across, that gender shouldn’t matter in society. So, I think if you call yourself Tunte- I mean, you can call yourself whatever you want, but I think that Tunten are trying to reclaim the name for themselves and give it a positive attitude and, like, a positive meaning behind it. But if you would call me that, in the first moment I’d be like, “Hey. What’s wrong? Why are you doing this?” But Tunte itself is very political, and I think a lot of people are trying to give it a good meaning, but there is still a long way to go, I think. And it was more common in the 80s and 90s, to call yourself Tunte.
SR: I think it also, with Travestie and Drag, the meaning ‘drag’ or the word Drag, changed a lot there as well.
RT: But I think it never made it that far. I mean, we have the Tuntenball in Graz. We also have the Tuntathlon, which is like a little competition, but you would go to a Travestieshow or you would go to a Dragshow, but you never would go to a Tuntenshow. Like, the art form Tunte is not that established.
SR: I also think because Tunte – Tunten, in that case – don’t expect you to give them money or something. This is just political. So, they go on the streets and would be protesting and stuff. But you wouldn’t find them doing their own show, and be like, “Hey, I’m performing tonight, get your tickets”. This is not the meaning behind Tunte, I think, or the form of it.
RT: It’s more about reclaiming.
LG: Tunte can be a very offensive term if it’s used in a malicious or derogatory way. When it comes to slurs, we talked about some that affect people in the queer community in the series 2 episode with Kai. As drag artists and performers, Ryta and Sassica naturally often go out in public in drag, which elicits a range of reactions, not all of them positive. Some of the things that are said to them can be quite offensive.
RT: I only got offended when somebody would catcall me on the streets and be like, “Hey, Puppe, komm mal her”. Then I’m like, “Hm, OK, no.”
SR: I got like something, actually it was in English as well, “You ugly woman”. I got that once. And other than that it would be like, “Puppe! Schatzerl!” Something like this.
LG: Puppe is the German word for ‘doll’. Which actually sounds quite nice in English.
RT: Doll is-
SR: It’s really nice!
RT: It’s really nice and cute, but Puppe in German is like, ugh.
SR: But if you would call me ‘doll’ in English, I’d be like, “yas, thank you!”
RT: The dolls are dolling!
LG: But Puppe is kinda always negative in connotation.
RT: Yeah, especially in Vienna, it’s like connected to, yeah, to catcalling.
LG: The other word Sassica mentioned was Schatzerl, a derivative of Schatz. Which is usually something nice, like ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling’. Of course, that can be used in a belittling way, too. But the Schatzerl, with the diminutive ending -erl, E-R-L, is a little different.
SR: Schatzerl! There it- I would think it would be like the pronunciation of it. So if you would say “Schatz”, it would be a different meaning. If I would say to Ryta now, “Hey, Schatz!”, it would be different than, “Hey, Schatzerl!”
RT: Mhm, mhm.
SR: So just depends on the intention behind it, but usually it’s catcalling.
LG: How does it make you feel to get catcalled with these words?
RT: [whispers] Awful.
SR: Oh, it’s terrible.
SR: It’s really terrible. You don’t know how- I don’t know how to react in the first few seconds. And it really depends on my mood on how I will react after the first five seconds. But usually, I’m trying to pretend and ignore it.
RT: Same. Yeah, I always try to ignore it. Sometimes, also it depends on the mood, sometimes I’m ready to fight and discuss and tell them to stop, but usually I’m just like, they’re not gonna, they’re not gonna listen to me anyway, so, whatever.
SR: I ignore it on the streets. I don’t ignore it if I’m at a venue or something. Then I will say something.
RT: Yeah, same.
SR: Because I know, usually I am in a safe space there with more people, so I’m gonna speak up and say something. But if I’m on the street, probably on my own, alone, and on my way home or coming home or whatever, then I will just ignore it because I’m like, no, I’m not going to go into this right now.
RT: Yep, same for me.
LG: Austria sometimes garners the criticism of being quite a conservative country, especially outside of the larger cities. You get people with questionable, harmful and even dangerous views everywhere you go, so Austria isn’t unique in this respect. Though Austria is a far cry from countries where there are laws that are actively anti-LGBTQ, and I consider myself very lucky to live in Austria, which has generally been getting more liberal with its views and its laws in recent years. I love living in Vienna and I feel so comfortable here. Still, there are people and views that are very much alive that range from conservative scepticism to downright homophobia and hatred. Just recently there has been an increase in anti-drag rhetoric for instance from the right-wing FPÖ, seemingly trying to follow in the footsteps of US states in banning drag under the guise of protecting minors. This is obviously extremely problematic and harmful to insinuate, and anti-drag laws would have devastating consequences not only for drag performers, but generally for self-expression and potentially even for trans people if the laws are worded vaguely enough. The interview with Sassica and Ryta was recorded before this really started to become a major topic again, so we don’t talk about these recent developments, but I asked them in general what it’s like for them to be drag queens in Austria.
SR: Well, as a drag artist in Vienna or Austria, I mean, I live in quite a bubble, so I don’t really get the conservative criticism, and even if I do, I have to ignore it because otherwise your life would be miserable, let’s be honest. Austria has still a long, long way to go. But I think you only surround yourself with people you love and who you care for and who you appreciate as well, but this counts for every life decision you’re making, or every life stage you have. So I would say I can’t be bothered, because if I would be bothered, I probably wouldn’t do drag anymore.
RT: Yeah, I’m also not affected by Austrian tradition, conservatives, in any sort of way. The only thing I would take it and turn it into something drag. Like the, for example, red and white Austrian colours. But other than that, I’m also in a bubble where you are not really confronted with topics like this.
SR: And I know a lot of drag colleagues of mine or drag artists or queens who have a Dirndl or a Lederhosen zu Hause- oh, at home. Sorry. [laughter] That was too much Austrian slang already! No, but, for example, I myself own two Dirndl, so. And this is quite celebrated as well. People are loving you in the traditional form of clothing then. It’s like, ‘OK, wow, I never expected that’.
RT: Yeah, I think it’s a very interesting cultural clash there if you’re doing drag, which is very new and different, and combining it with Austrian tradition. Very interesting.
LG: As well as the developments in public opinion and legislation when it comes to LGBTQ topics, the drag scene here has been developing too in recent years.
SR: Well, the drag scene in Vienna, I would say, is growing and growing and growing, which is so nice to see, because I think we’ve waited years that something is happening or more is happening. Because what was happening back a few years, even when I started, there was not much going on, and I started seven years ago. So, pff. And there was nothing. Or like, little, but not much. And you couldn’t, like- There was no platform or, like, there were not many spaces where you could actually perform back then. And now, nowadays, I think it’s great and everything is growing and blooming out of the sudden, so it’s really nice to see. And the variety there is really nice. So you don’t only have, like, the drag queens we discussed before, but you have the drag kings, you have the drag monsters, you have club kids, you have drag artists who don’t wanna pinpoint themselves in any direction, so this is really good.
RT: Yeah, when I think of the Viennese drag scene, I would also- The first word that comes to my mind is diverse. You can also listen to my podcast Your Tale, where I’m interviewing so many amazing artists about their art form.
LG: I’ll link to Ryta’s podcast Your Tale in the shownotes, it’s well worth a listen. I absolutely can’t do the drag scene justice with this one episode alone, so definitely head over to her podcast to get a fuller and more rounded picture of the drag scene in Vienna and beyond.
RT: And through the podcast, I really got to know how the drag scene evolved within the last two years, I would say. Before that, it was either you were in the inner circle of drag queens in Vienna, or you were not. You were either one of the underground queens, or you were on top, exposed to the commercial media. Yeah. It was this or that.
SR: And also, you had to have the guts. Like, you have to have the guts to go there and say, like, “OK, I’m gonna do an own event” or something. Because you don’t- You didn’t really know back in the day – back in the day – a few years ago if this is gonna work out or not. And I think Drag Race helped a lot, because Drag Race exposed drag to so many, like, ‘normal’ people, in a way, that they were like, “Hey, I’m interested. What’s going on in the city? Where are drag artists? Where I can watch them?” So, I think that, with the exposure of television, this really helped as well. Because when I started, there were not many people doing stuff and it was either this or that, and if you don’t fit in in both of those categories, there was no place for you. And if you’re a newcomer, have the guts and do something on your own, I mean, this takes a lot of work. And even if someone tried, they probably failed because it wasn’t really successful because people didn’t know.
LG: RuPaul’s Drag Race has obviously had a massive impact on how drag is received worldwide, and so it has influenced the Viennese drag scene a lot. People have started doing drag here because of the show, people are going to local drag shows more. But even before Drag Race became the huge global phenomenon that it is today, there was a particular breakthrough moment in the last ten years that put the spotlight on drag in Austria.
SR: I think it also started with Conchita, with Conchita’s win. A lot of people then started, “Oh, who is she? Who is she? What is she doing? What is she doing? Do I want to do it as well?” So, Drag Race and Conchita’s win started a lot in Austria. Or at least, the attention was there then.
LG: Sassica is of course referring to Conchita Wurst here, an Austrian singer who won the Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen in 2014 performing in drag with the song Rise Like A Phoenix. Not only was it Austria’s first Eurovision victory since 1966, but it turned people’s attention towards drag. Austria of all places became known for winning with a drag performer.
RT: I also think it was very interesting how Conchita was introduced to us as the bearded woman in a television show competition. There was no term of drag, drag queen, nowhere near, I think. I remember seeing it on the newspaper on my mum’s kitchen table, where it said, “A bearded lady competed in this new television series in Austria”, and I was like “Ooh, what is that?”
LG: It’s amazing to see the drag scene in Vienna flourishing, and if you’re ever in Vienna, come to a drag show. Support the local drag artists here. This is important now more than ever. As you could probably gather from this episode, it’s so hard to define what drag is, let alone find a suitable German word for it. Maybe drag is best left undefined, and the best way to truly understand it is to come and experience it for yourself. So, we’ve heard some successful, and not so successful, German translations and definitions of drag. We’ve heard about words like Tunte, Puppe, Schatzerl, and we’ve heard how, yet again, English is simply the go-to language when it comes to so many aspects of drag. To end this episode, let’s put language to one side. What do Ryta and Sassica want you to take away from this when it comes to drag?
RT: I think one thing that I want listeners to take with them is that drag is a very complex art form and don’t try to put drag artists into a certain box because we’re trying to break out of this box.
SR: That’s a very good statement. I will say “yes” to that, and also, I would say, try out drag for yourself. Just do it. Because once you’ve done it, I think you know better what we just talked about. And, like, you know the feeling, because as soon as you’re in drag, something is changing with you, and you should just be there for the experience, and drag is fun. That’s, like, the most important thing. Have fun in drag. Yeah. I’d say those are the things you have to take home.
LG: Thank you so much to Ryta Tale and Sassica Rabbit for joining me for this episode. Ryta’s podcast is called Your Tale. There she interviews drag artists of all different styles and backgrounds, mainly from Vienna, about their lives and careers. She goes into much more detail about so many facets of drag, so while we just dipped our toes in here, she takes a real deep dive. It’s funny, it’s informative, and it’s definitely worth a listen. And you can follow Ryta on Instagram @rytatale, that’s Ryta with a Y and Tale like the story.
Sassica Rabbit is the co-founder of The Lipstick Ball, which provides newcomers to drag the opportunity to perform in a supportive environment and potentially become the new Drag of the Night. This society also organises other performances throughout the year and raises money for good causes with their amazing yearly drag calendar. You can follow Sassica on Instagram too @sassicarabbit. All the info and links in the shownotes.
I mentioned in the episode that drag is under attack from the right wing in Austria at the moment, who are trying to ban drag shows and drag story times for children. If this isn’t stopped, it could quite easily go even further and have very serious consequences for drag performers, artists and possibly beyond. You can support your local drag scene by going to local shows and by spreading the word that drag is not a crime. In the shownotes and on the podcast website, you’ll also find a link to a petition to protect drag shows and drag performers from such attacks and prohibitions. Thank you to Candy Licious for starting this petition.
As always, you can follow me on Instagram @yotepodcast, that’s Y-O-T-E-Podcast. Facebook @yellowoftheegg, and my email is email@example.com. Thanks so much for listening, see you in the next one. Machts es gut, servus aus Wien.
SR: But we still use the female articles for “die neue Drag of the Night”, just because I personally feminise everything in drag.
RT: Sassica feminises everything in drag except for her face. [laughter]
SR: True! Guilty!
RT: No, I am kidding, I am kidding. You know I love you.
SR: Yeah, yeah. She’s gonna throw me out soon!