Let us introduce you to Drag Brunch. Drag Brunch is located within Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, right next to Play Nashville. For those of you who don’t know, Play Nashville is a local gay club and bar that is well-known for its entertaining drag performances. The two businesses are located on Church Street, one of the more “lively” areas near our very own campus. House of Yum is a restaurant that serves delicious Asian cuisine during most days of the week, but on Sunday, the restaurant is only for brunch… Drag Brunch.
About six months ago, Chef Arnold Myint (the creator of Suzy Wong’s House of Yum) partnered with Play Nashville to bring Drag Brunch to Church Street. Drag Brunch introduces a special brunch menu to House of Yum in addition to a live drag performance by one of the entertainers from Play Nashville. Every Sunday, a different drag queen puts on 4-5 performances within a 4 hour window for brunch. For Kate, a bartender and waitress at House of Yum, Drag Brunch is an extremely effective way to bring a new crowd into the “drag scene…it’s easier to be involved with,” said Kate. “You don’t have to go into a full on gay bar to experience drag culture.”
Because Drag Brunch isn’t an “anything goes” type of venue like you would see at Play Nashville’s late night performances, married couples, children, and families are welcomed in the restaurant. Not just a gay crowd attends brunch. It is important to note that customers have been very receptive to the new menu and performances, especially because every Sunday brings a new drag queen–each with their own persona and performance style. One drag queen, DeeDee, has received a lot of positive attention from customers and the Nashvillle community. DeeDee is a cancer survivor who was assigned male at birth, but lives life as a woman. She works closely with different cancer societies in Nashville, but also with Nashville Cares, an HIV/AIDS organization. But DeeDee is not alone: Suzy Wong’s also partners with various HIV/AIDS organizations in the area. Arnold Myint wants to maintain a relationship with people in the area who are negatively affected by a HIV/AIDS, because of it’s close ties to the LGBTQI community–a community that drag queens find themselves a part of. In this way, Suzy Wong’s House of Yum doesn’t just serve to bring us food and live entertainment, but it also serves to bridge the gap between merely seeing drag performances and being able to learn from (and interacting with) those who are performing. This can be seen through connections in the readings.
In Kristen Barber’s Sex and Power, she explores sex and sexuality in relation to social power. She highlights two sociologists, Dworkin and MacKinnon, who believe heterosexuality is a mechanism of power in which men are able to exert dominance over women. Dworkin asks, “ whether sex is a loving, intimate act between two mutually consenting people, or if it is the display of male social, political, psychological, and economic dominance over women”(45), and for me, not just dominance over women, but any body that does not fit that heterosexual construct-where transgendered individuals tend to fit in. This “heterosexual power” is not just one seen in intimate spaces however also in the social realm. It allows for advancement even in the realms of politics and the economy all due to the nature of being considered “normal”. Those individuals who do not fit into this heterosexual mold however, are then granted powerless in many aspects of their lives. These individuals face discrimination and the inability to freely exert their different sexualities. This can be seen in the typical lack of resources and counter spaces for transgendered individuals. For the owners and the Queens of Drag Brunch however, they seem to have been able to put a dent in the mold that holds them powerless. Suzy Wong’s and Play is in essence a counter space, or a space in which marginalized individuals are able to gather and discuss their experiences of marginalization while having a space to express their true selves. By no means does this signify that these women are to only express themselves in just this space, but it gives them the power to be true to themselves while also shining a positive light on Drag culture to the residents of Nashville. Resources such as these are ways in which to try to begin to shift the sexual power dynamic (that also maps onto social and political power), to other forms of sex and sexuality in society.
Though the power dynamic between heterosexuality and any other sexuality outside the norm is very much uneven, these Queens are very resilient and still exert a sense of sexual subjectivity. The Drag Queen we saw during our visit was very confident and it was evident from discussion with Kate, that these women felt free to live sexually as they please, whether that be full time as a woman or not, they should inspire all to break that mold!
Of course we encourage each of you to check out Drag Brunch (Sunday’s 11am-3pm). While at brunch you’ll have a great meal and also be able to engage with the fantastic drag queens. But beyond that, we also encourage you to go to Play Nashville and experience the nighttime drag shows and club scene. (PSA: On Wednesday’s, it’s college night so you get in for free!) If the idea of drag or clubs or brunch is still a bit too much for you, then maybe some simple volunteering will best fit the bill. Nashville Cares is an excellent opportunity to work with the LGBTI community (and possibly meet DeeDee) while you learn about relevant issues involving sexuality, health, and society. The organization is actually putting on a Mad Hatter’s Ball this upcoming February! Check out the poster and information here: http://www.nashvillecares.org/events/2015/02/21/avant-garde-mad-hatters-ball.1173792