Unlike a lot of comedic performers today, veteran drag queen Lady Bunny isn’t worried about whether or not she’s using the latest in politically correct terminology. In fact, when it comes to the topics of gender and sex, she’s bucking the trend of correctness altogether in favor of a shocking raunchiness that only she can pull off. Bunny’s one-woman show, Trans-Jester, returns this month to New York City’s legendary Stonewall Inn after a wildly successful run in April. The show uses Bunny’s full repertoire of singing, dancing, zingers, and personal commentary to offer an irreverent but thought-provoking breakdown of PC buzzwords and current issues facing the ever-evolving queer community. I talked to Bunny about dealing with the generation gap, her feelings on the latest woke identity labels, and what to expect from her “not for the faint of heart” live show.
When you aren’t DJ’ing, acting, performing, and producing events, what do you do with your time?
Well, I did watch the news until this election became so toxic that for my own sanity, I stepped away. This election is making people draw lines in the sand. It’s devolved into nonsense. That’s why I wanted to bring the show back. People need to laugh. I don’t delve much into politics in the show because I think people need a break from it. It’s more concerned with gender politics and political correctness in general. There are so many different things we’re not supposed to say. It’s changing so quickly that I have a hard time keeping up with words like cisgender and heteronormative. I think I’m probably some of those things, but I don’t even know what to call myself.
Can you elaborate on your grasp of cis-gender and other current gender identity terms?
Cis-gender is a word which puzzles me because it seems to come from transgender therapy. It refers to someone who is not trans. In other words, a cisgender woman is a woman. A woman like my mom and sis, who were born women and have no desire to transition into anything. Trans issues may be trendy right now, but if trans people are roughly .3% of the population, where do they get off creating a word for 99.7% of the rest of us? That’s like asking “Would you like that omelette with egg whites or with cis-eggs?” or “Do you prefer Diet Coke or cis-Coke?” We don’t need a word to describe the main thing which isn’t the variation.
Sometimes, militant trans activists will abbreviate cisgender and say things like “Die, cis scum!” Great! You are really building allies in your quest for equal rights by creating a slur for 99% of the rest of humanity. Trans people can have a very tough time on their journeys and they do experience a lot of ignorance, prejudice, violence, or even murder. I’m not trying to belittle their struggle. But I will gladly belittle Caitlyn Jenner, who gay groups held up briefly as a trans role model. Bitch, please! I support anyone’s right to transition into anything. But that fool needs to transition out of the Republican party which seeks to destroy the rights of the LGBT community which she’s trying to join. Caitlyn actually confused many transsexual friends of mine who smelled a publicity stunt and fakery. And when Glamour magazine named her Woman of The Year…she hasn’t even been a woman for a year!
Look, I have no problem with changing lingo, just don’t expect that everyone else is forced to play your word games because they mean something to you. As someone who’s worn women’s clothes to work for 30 years, I’m not going to frown on anyone for playing with gender. But what is a zir? I’ve never even met one and I’m 54! And is “gender fluid” when I’m in drag and I have diarrhea? Even I can’t keep up with all of these terms myself. So it’s time to mock them. And I don’t embrace non-PC language in a way that Trump does: to justify racism. I just want to laugh.
Your show is called Trans-Jester. What does that title mean to you?
“Trans” is a prefix for both transvestite, which is what drag queens are, and transsexual. Because I juggle a lot of new sexual identity terms in this show and I’m essentially a clown, I wanted the title to inform everyone upfront that if you’re too precious to even handle a title which indicates that a show pokes fun at PC culture, skip this performance. You’re probably no fun. Speaking of precious, I sometimes bill myself as The White Precious in a reference to the movie Precious, since I’m fat, retarded, and will probably get AIDS.
What can people expect from this show? What do you hope they will take away from it?
I joke that “I tried Syrian refugee cock, but that it just kept coming.” One night, a lady came up after the show and told me “I’m from Syria.” I thought “Oh, shit. Here comes the lecture.” Instead, she told me, “We have a saying in my country: ‘The best humor comes from the worst tragedies.’” Then she hugged me. Humor can actually defuse terrible situations if we would get off our high horses for long enough to enjoy it like we used to. Remember the brilliant character Pat from SNL by Julia Sweeney? “Pat” was of such indeterminate gender that no one who met her knew how to address her and “it” was kind of creepy. The whole thing was hilarious, but you couldn’t air those skits today without a firestorm of criticism branding it transphobic. The same thing with In Living Color’s queeny movie reviewers who gave films “three snaps up.” Were they playing on gay stereotypes? Absolutely! And it made us howl, gay and straight alike. I just think that if you treat people with respect, labels become a lot less important. So if you get someone’s pronoun of choice wrong, it’s not really a big deal because you’ve introduced yourself to them respectfully. You just got it wrong once and we’re all learning.
Speaking of learning, I also touch on what is going on with PC college campuses. At one college, they claim that it’s insensitive to ask someone where they are from. Huh? That’s making conversation, you idiots! Can I still ask someone, “How are you?” without transferring my cisgender white male privilege onto them because I’m more likely to be doing more okay than they are? And don’t never ask “What’s up?” to someone with Down’s Syndrome. It’s just gotten so out of control that well-meaning people don’t know how to approach concepts like heteronormative. So our Oppression Olympics and victim culture actually stifle discussion, and therefore understanding. And if you honestly want to stop hearing fat-shaming, then quit eating so much. You’ll never hear it again.
The first run of the show attracted some celebrity audience members like Susan Sarandon, Rupert Everett, Andy Cohen, and John Cameron Mitchell. Who would you love to have show up during this run?
I’d love for Whoopi Goldberg to make it into a special! I’d love for some of my favorite comedians to see it, and those include Bridget Everett and Margaret Cho. And I’d love for A-Rod to come see me. Disgraced or not, I think he’s really sexy. I could come onto him and if he rejects my advances, I could get loads of press for the show by claiming he’s transphobic, homophobic, ageist and fat-shaming. And I hope Hillary Clinton could see it if there’s room. During the show’s last run I felt like Hillary on Wall Street: totally sold out.
You’re performing at the historic Stonewall Inn, which is known as the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement due to the 1969 Stonewall Riots. What personal significance does performing there have for you?
These riots were started by trans people, drag queens, and gays who had had enough harassment from cops. It was also right after their main diva Judy Garland died, so they were really in a mood. So I think it’s interesting that decades later, after the joint had been landmarked by President Obama this summer, a drag queen is there asking some questions about the direction of the gay movement now. Some of my people would whoop me for even saying “gay” instead of LGBT or LGBTI or LGBTIQA…they change the configuration of letters every day. I ask in the show, “How does a movement which can’t even decide on its name hope to advance its causes?” There is so much in-fighting between the different elements of my community that we’re fighting each other instead of the enemy: people who would bash or kill us, or who would roll back civil rights gains through new legislation. In North Carolina, where I was born, they now force trans people to use the bathroom of their birth sex as opposed to what sex they currently live in. I worked there recently at a fundraiser and I was really nervous about which bathroom to use. Luckily for me, my new Extra-Strength, Heavy Flow Depends allow me to go anywhere, anytime.
Why do you feel that drag is an important contribution to the performing arts?
Drag is larger than life and as such, it’s been an effective theatrical device used from Shakespeare’s day to Kabuki theater in Japan. I like drag because unlike acting, I’m able to choose my own character, script, musical numbers, costumes, choreography - if you could call it that - and styling. Unless you’re a top actor, you pretty much have to do what a director is telling you according to a script you didn’t select. So for me, drag is freeing and I’m less the pawn of someone else’s choices.
Do you feel that drag has always been a part of accepted popular culture, even when other outward expressions of gender and sexual identity weren’t?
Drag has always been the entertainment of choice in gay bars, where I hail from. You’re either going to find drag queens tucking their junk away or strippers flopping theirs around. There was a big drag boom in the 1990s with To Wong Foo, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, etc, so sometimes straights – the mainstream – will have a temporary love affair with drag and then tire of it. Drag is less taboo than trans because people view someone like Dame Edna or RuPaul as putting on a costume for a show. It’s more difficult for some to accept that person on the train who is trying to live their life as a different sex and not quite there yet with the look. But since I normally don’t look like I’m trying to blend in and I wear flashy costumes – not to mention I’m 6’2” in giant wigs – people are more likely to pass me in the street and say, “You go, girl!” or, “Where’s the party?” Or sometimes smart asses will ask “How much?” and I’ll say “Go ask your mom. She’s on the next corner.” I never mind someone thinking I could get paid for sex. Currently I’m an unemployed hooker.
You and RuPaul used to be roommates in Atlanta. Any good gossip or stories?
Tons! In the upcoming memoir.
You recently turned 54 and you look amazing. I’m 36 and struggling. Any beauty tips I could implement?
Thanks! Appear in dark venues where they serve booze and keep moving. Take photos from above to chop off jowls and always use a flash to smooth out anything from wrinkles, to pores, to beard stubble, to coke snot.
Any other projects coming up?
My apartment is going to be featured on Million Bedbug Listing. But Bravo passed on my idea for a show about a rich doctor who performs sex changes called Millionaire Snatchmaker. I guess they only want to feature one transvestite per network. And Patti Stanger has that position all wrapped up.
Tickets for Trans Jester are available here.