The queen of topsy-turvydom

Identities aren’t always what they seem at Patrick’s Cabaret

Greg Corradini

Sometimes, Quiana Perkins will wear gobs of make-up and bind her breasts in cloth.

When she straps on cha-cha heels and steps onstage, look out. Bold and brassy, Perkins morphs into her drag persona, Princess Wanna-be-a-Queen.

But, technically, Perkins is not a drag queen, a label reserved for men donning eyeliner in their funhouse permutations of gender.

“People were like, ‘You can’t be a drag queen because you’re a girl,’ ” said Perkins, who identifies as female.

Queen or not, Perkins is a definition-buster about to knuckle-up.

“If drag is portraying super-hyper femininity, then I can do that. It’s not every day that I have on heels and make-up. So, I said, ‘Fuck ya’ll,’ ” she said.

This weekend, Perkins’ spoken word and drag performance will be part of “Q &: Queer Artists, Many Identities.”

As the title implies, the cabaret will take a hard look at the GLBT spectrum and the repercussions of grouping people into easy categories.

Artists such as Perkins, who fall somewhere within this continuum, will have a chance to express the ways in which their identities are more than just gender and sexual orientation.

Take, for example, the show’s curator, Lane McKiernan.

In 15 years of being a writer, dancer and performer, McKiernan has many different nuances of identity.

McKiernan prefers the personal pronouns “ze/hir,” which are neutral pronouns that reflect hir gender identity as different than male or female.

McKiernan said problems can, and often do, come into play when people in marginalized communities are encouraged to come together around a particular identity and ignore everything else.

In some areas of the GLBT community, ze said, there is a division between those who identify as transgender, transsexual and genderqueer.

“There is a tendency to assume that everybody has to be the same for us to work together and be safe,” McKiernan said. “I have all these different identities.”

Perkins understands this dynamic.

As a black University graduate student and multimedia artist, Perkins is a lot of things 365 days a year and anything but easy to label.

That doesn’t always mean that each community she is a member of simply accepts her many facets.

Perkins said that when she is in the GLBT community, she might be the only queer person of color.

“It’s all right to have gay pride, just as long as you acknowledge that I’m gay and black the other 11 months of the year,” she said. “It’s not an ‘and/or’ situation. I am both always.”

And that’s exactly where McKiernan and Perkins bring in their performance art.

Used as a tool to dismantle labels, their art is an alternative source of information based on their own life experiences.

Over the last three years, Perkins has been honing the performance of her alter ego, Princess.

Each performance is different, but one evening might include Perkins shedding her outer layers of clothing to Reba McEntire songs.

These days, though, when she disrobes, the cloth that binds her breasts might say more about a queer woman caught in the crossfire of terminology than drag entertainment.

“There is a GLBT community,” Perkins said. “But we really need to make sure that space is inclusive.”