Kingdom Comes

Girls who dress and act like boys, St. Louis' drag kings get up onstage to bend and blur the line between the sexes

Many of the Bent Boyz were tomboys as kids, and being mistaken for a boy stung -- or intrigued -- them. Jeanne, on the other hand, was as femme as femme can be, and she stunned her friends when she pulled on men's jeans, skinned her hair back and convinced the world otherwise.

"I don't see identity in such simple categories anymore," she says. "I have a lot of characteristics that aren't so easily classified." For her, being a king isn't about wanting to be a man, but it is a form of self-expression: "Jay Walker's very suave, pretty self-absorbed. He floats through life breaking hearts. That probably is a part of me, one I don't allow myself to indulge very much."

Lauren's first inspiration as Luke came from a 1972 David Bowie song, "Boys Keep Swinging." Bowie did it in female drag, singing that "nothing stands in your way when you're a boy." Lauren reversed the drag, shaving off her wavy blond/brown hair. Now she's letting it grow out, convinced that the illusion comes from mannerisms more than appearance. "I run into a lot of girl things I have to totally turn off," she says, "like talking with my hands and smiling too much."

Amy Bautz
Luke Lonewolf, who manages the Bent Boyz troupe, tries not to smile.
Amy Bautz
Luke Lonewolf, who manages the Bent Boyz troupe, tries not to smile.

Those eager, happy, curved-up girl smiles bend a guy's mustache.

Back in first grade -- in what Maureen calls her "confused baby-lesbian days," when she thought she had to be a boy to have girls like her -- she played with people's perceptions, sometimes introducing herself as a boy, sometimes making them guess.

But since she created Mo Faux, gluing on a goatee and packing a bulge, she's started wearing earrings and lip gloss to school.

"I used to feel, 'If I want to be in this box, I can't do anything that is in this other box,'" she says. "Through drag I've found a place with all of that available." Drag queens helped as much as kinging: She used to feel feminist qualms about shaving her legs, until it dawned on her that a drag queen might shave hers, too. In other words, she says, "I can choose.

"I don't think I'd ever want to be a drag king as a career," she adds slowly. "That would mean doing it too much. I like that I can go back to Maureen." She pauses, cocks her head. "I do think everyone should dress in drag at least once, though. Biodrag or genderfuck or something. That way, even if they don't like it, they'll know how it feels to not quite fit in one of the boxes."

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