Who Are You?
Ruth Watson (not the Hotel Inspector, but I get good rooms due to the name). Membership Liaison Officer for the Galactic Knights costuming group, self confessed geek, Tolkien addict, just trying to make my way in this world with bills to pay and a book addiction.
Why and when did you decide to become a Drag King or do FTM Cosplay?
Having been a long time con attendee, and meeting the Galactic Knights at the annual SFW weekender, I always wanted to go in a cool costume and immerse myself in it fully. The world of Middle Earth is my first and foremost love, so it was a no-brainer it would be from that particular corner of the geekiverse. I’ve never considered myself particularly feminine or girly, and am obsessed with weapons and armour, so it was pretty much a foregone conclusion I would go for a male character. The tales were written in another time, and though the female characters are written particularly strongly and with great influence (even by today’s standards), I felt I was more suited to the male characters. The noble warrior and all that, I think. Tolkien’s women are almost too good… I didn’t feel I could do them justice!
Do you have a favourite character? (Why is he your favourite?)
There are so many! But I will go with my costumed character of Eomer. I’ve owned horses my entire life, and worked in the equine industry, so the people of Rohan, with their almost deification of horses, appealed to me from the moment I encountered them in the pages. When the movie was released, the design team based their ideas on Tolkien’s own thoughts and writing, so essentially they were Anglo-Saxons, with the addition of horses. The armour design, the whole feel of the people and their way of life just fit. When you know, you know. Eomer represents the hope and future of his house. With his cousin slain, he becomes heir to his uncle’s kingdom, a man enslaved by the spells of the enemy. He finds himself banished, and not highly regarded by those he serves. Yet he fights on regardless, knowing he is true to himself and his people. That’s why he appeals… knock him down, turn people against him, he keeps on and fights for what he believes in, even though he can see nothing but defeat in the long run.
What attracted you to dressing and performing as a male character?
As I say, I have never been a ‘girly’ girl. I was a tomboy my entire childhood. My parents let me have all my hair cut off when I was five as I was determined I wanted to be one of the boys. And delighted when people complimented my mum on her lovely son…! I don’t buy gender stereotypes. I have a lot of qualities that people who do buy into it would consider ‘male’. But why should they? Can’t we all just be as we are, and those who love us just accept it? I know I do with my friends and loved ones. When I wear Eomer, I become part of him. A lot of it is my history in that world, and the emotional bonds I have from that. And I look so different to my regular self that I can entirely lose myself in it. I have walked up to people I know well and looked them directly in the eye, and they didn’t know it was me. I can do all the little things and mannerisms that are taken for granted that men do, but society frowns upon when women do it. And all it does is reinforce how ridiculous gender stereotypes really are. The world is changing, it needs to change faster. Until then, I have my escape in being a character that when it’s judged on appearance (as it ALWAYS is), can to the opposite of what society believes is right for my gender.
Why do you think Drag Kings/FTM cosplayers are usually ignored in favour of Drag Queens MTF Cosplayers?
Personally? I think it’s that gender stereotype thing all over again. It’s that reinforced belief that ‘men should be men’ bullshit. So a woman dressing or presenting as male is far less dramatic, far less confrontational, because of course women want to be men… They get all the perks, right? It’s accepted now that women can wear trousers (although within living memory even that was a big no. Some schools are only now allowing female students to wear trousers), it’s accepted now that women can hold positions of power. Although should they display any form of male stereotypical behaviour, expect the world to fall in ruin…. A man, however… should he crossplay, cross dress, or show any sign of exhibiting any trait that is remotely ‘feminine’…The world explodes. ‘Why would you do that? Why would you present like that? Why would you portray as the ‘weaker’ sex? I can’t cope with that. You’re a MAN’. Those guys are as much victims of sexism as women. And it’s horrible. There’s some sort of implied thing that people are lesser should they not conform. I detest that, in all its forms.
What would you like the world to know?
Disregard anyone who stereotypes you. Be proud of who you are and what you love. Live hard, and leave memories. Just be a decent person, and regardless of how others treat you, know you, know your worth, and be fierce. Do not let what others think or believe EVER drag you to their level. You like the Flash? Wear the costume, if you like. Believe in Superman’s values? More power to you. Bookish, clever, not a reality show girl? Be Hermione. She saved the world. Be her. Be Arya Stark. Be anyone you want to be. Sports fans can gather in groups, wear a group uniform, and be considered 100% the norm. Be a geek? Do it. Do whatever it is you want to do. Wear the costume, watch the movie, live by their values. Doing that, I know I belong to the biggest family in the world. Long may it continue.
Dannii Cohen is a stand-up comedian (drag name Divine Varod) and comedy writer turned author, psychologist, professional counselor, life coach and self-help expert. Specialized in LGBT issues, anxiety, empowerment, children’s issues and bullying.
Published works include children’s books about childhood depression and the importance of being yourself (When Clouds Hide The Sun and Christopher the Lonely Bear) and an easy to use self help manual 50 Things To Know To Have A Better Life: Self-Improvement Made Easy.