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The Exotic World of the Sissy Butch Brothers

By Kay Daly

Intro | Fading Divas | Memories | Gurlesque | The Boa

Taking up the boa
So why is burlesque, a relic of a bygone age, capturing the imagination of modern-day audiences and performers? Each performer has her own reason for taking up the boa, but much of the appeal has to do with burlesque’s playful questioning of assumptions.

For Leah Moyers, a marketing exec and frequent “Gurlesque” performer, the burlesque is the perfect antidote for the sexual overload of modern culture. “We’re in a phase of sex saturation,” she says. “We’re now at the point where what’s unknown is sexier.”

Red agrees: “In burlesque, the excitement is not about revealing, but concealing.” As such, the striptease of burlesque overturns the typical power structure of sexuality. “In our culture, ‘to be a tease’ can be used as an explanation for why it’s okay to rape,” Red explains. “But in burlesque, the tease is erotic; the audience is made to feel lucky to see anything.”

This playfulness allows for the free play of alternative notions about sexuality and gender. The stage of “Gurlesque Burlesque” is an open forum where performers of all shapes and sizes are permitted to express their beauty. Says Leah, “The show really makes people aware that a variety of body types are sexy.”

This openness also provides a forum for raising questions about our expectations about sexuality. In one “Gurlesque” act, a sexy fem dancer clad in a bustier teases a drag king. Initially, the dancer is the object of desire, but as the strip continues, she realizes her pursuer doesn’t want to get in her pants; the drag king wants to wear her pants. “The scene is very funny,” Red explains, “But it also disrupts up the stereotypes that can congeal even in queer subcultures.”

Regardless of the orientation or the specific questions raised, Gwen maintains that it’s the act of burlesque performance that gives the art form its power.

“Any time someone gets on stage and says ‘look at me,’ that’s an amazing transformation,” Gwen muses. “A lot of these women, these people, haven’t been able to look at society and say ‘look at me.’ They’ve been able to walk down the street and be invisible. And feel like their issues are invisible.”

By stepping onto the burlesque stage, they join a tradition nearly 150 years old. They flaunt their bodies. They raise their questions. And like Dixie Evans and her friends of yesteryear, they invite us to play in their exotic world.

Visit the website of Dixie Evan’s Exotic World Museum.

Learn more about The Sissy Butch Brothers and their work.

tell it to the 'tat

Have you been busy making a Habitat of your own? Do you know someone who's living life outside the box? Tell us about it and you might just find yourself or your friend in the Show Off spotlight! Let the cohabitation begin.