Sissyboy are the extremists of Portland's drag/performance art world—self-described "drag terrorists"—whose divine mission is nothing less than blowing up political correctness and all it stands for.
From humble beginnings at IC Mummy, to a monthly gig at Holocene, and a recent one-year anniversary extravaganza at the Wonder Ballroom, the Sissyboy fan base has steadily grown—a testament to their irreverent, button-pushing brand of performance art. Their shows take aim at pop culture, politics, and political correctness, with a take-no-prisoners edge that offends as often as it impresses.
Equal parts drag show and sketch comedy, each Sissyboy performance has a theme, along the lines of "Sissyboy Goes to the Trailer Park." With titles like this, it's no shock that since their inception, Sissyboy has been accused of perpetrating everything from classism to fat-ism, and all the "-isms" in between: accusations they seem to relish.
During our interview, it became obvious that beneath the fake eyelashes, lipstick, and dramatic posturing is an intelligent and deliberate attempt to shake up what they see as a too-politically correct, too-homogenous social scene. Mix that sensibility with technical know-how and some genuinely talented, charismatic performers, and it's no surprise that though Sissyboy may be, as a recent slogan boasted, "offensive and wrong," they've also got what it takes to put on a hell of a show.
I met up with a few members of Sissyboy to talk about what they do and why they do it—but before answering any questions, Benjamin and Brendon needed to work through some issues with the Mercury.
Brendon: The Mercury wrote a review of Sissyboy without having seen our show, where you said that drag queens were as 1999 as sushi, or something like that.
Benjamin: Sushi never goes out of style.
Brendon: We're not drag queens, first of all. I like to think of us as drag monsters.
Benjamin: I prefer the term "drag terrorist."
Mercury: Sorry about that, but I have seen your show... How long have you been performing at Holocene?
Benjamin: Since October. We did a zombie beauty pageant there.
Brendon: That was one of our first Sissyboy scandals. Fanny Maye played Mama Cass, who he loves—like, you go in his room and there's a big record of Mama Cass on the wall...
Benjamin: That he prays to before he goes out in drag...
Brendon: ... And he built this fat suit—this absolutely beautiful fat suit with sequined nipples and a sequined vagina... and we got accused of being fat phobic!
Because of the fat suit?
Brendon: Yeah... Well, and because somebody called him a fat bitch.
Mama Cass was a big lady. Everybody knows it.
Brendon: Yeah, I don't really understand why people are like that. I mean, what am I supposed to call you? I'm supposed to pretend you're not fat?
Do you get a lot of that kind of PC-based criticism?
Brendon: Well, not so much recently—I think that after people caught on to what we were doing, they realized we're funny... not mean. But at the same time we're definitely not interested in being politically correct. And the thing of it is, it's only one vocal segment of the gay community, and that's the super-left lesbians. Not all lesbians, just this particular group [who have been] very vocal about criticizing us, for being fat phobic, classist, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, ableist.
Benjamin: Don't forget ageist!
Brendon: Ageist, everything... But then they don't like anything that doesn't involve tofu, rice, or organic, fair-trade goods.
Benjamin: We did a show called "Sissyboy Goes to the Trailer Park"—it was originally going to be called "Sissyboy Goes to Gresham," but we thought people would be confused and that we were actually performing in Gresham. But the whole thing was a parody of The Simple Life with Paris and Nicole. The self-proclaimed spokesperson for the queer revolution thought this was very classist, a very demeaning look at American culture, and insulting to people who live in trailer parks. Well, fuck you! I am white trash! I'm allowed to make fun of it, and that's the way it goes.
Brendon: I think most of the Sissyboys take what they're doing very seriously. It might be funny, but the definition of camp is making fun of something that you take very seriously. We have a lot of stuff we want to work through—personally, and with society, and we bring that into the show.
Brendon: My character got "cured." There's this whole segment of the gay population that nobody wants to talk about, they're just sort of stigmatized.
Like "recovered gays"?
Brendon: Yeah... so I wanted to get my character "cured," and of course not have it work, and get "uncured." I'm really angry about curing, and that whole mentality. I was really pissed off by that article the Willamette Week did—
[At this point in the interview, Sissyboy Lee Kyle drops by to berate me.]
Lee Kyle: Hi there, it's not 1999 nor are we DK PDX, so I don't know why you're here.
Mmm... Hi, I'm Alison. From the Mercury?
Lee Kyle: I don't care. I don't know why you're here. Y'all wrote a shitty review of our show and you'd never been to it.
I had nothing to do with that.
Lee Kyle: It was immature, and unprofessional, and ignorant, and it offended me.
Brendon: Lee, we've already worked that out... So anyway, I was really angry about that Willamette Week article, and I wanted to address it... so that's an example of what we personally bring to the show.
So you've got more of a political agenda than your average drag show?
Brendon: I wouldn't say there's a specific politic agenda, like "we are Sissyboy and we are Democrats." The politics are somewhat diverse. I think we all believe in progressive stuff, but as to what we do with that, I don't know... There's a lot of contention about what's a political statement and what's just offensive. There's a constant dialogue about "can we do this?" Can we throw body parts out of the World Trade Center? Can we parody that?
Benjamin: Can we burn Darcelle at the stake?
Brendon: That was an even harder issue than whether or not we could parody the World Trade Center.
What do you look to for inspiration?
Benjamin: Paris Hilton and South Park.
Brendon: Courtney Love is a big influence.
Lee Kyle: Here, I want to shake your hand. I feel bad for being so rude earlier.
That's okay. Have you guys seen your fan base growing?
Benjamin: Oh God, yes.
Brendon: I dropped off some fliers for the show at Lloyd Center, because I was shopping for fuck-me pumps. I found out—if anybody's looking for them—Charlotte Russe has them cheap, and they are trashy.
I can't walk in heels
Brendon: Neither can I.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Brendon: We eat abortions.
Benjamin: Precious, shut up.
Brendon: I do.
Benjamin: No, you don't. He does not eat abortions. The Mercury readers don't want to hear that.
Brendon: Have you read the Mercury?
Sissyboy will be performing their next show "Sissyboy Horror 4: Return of the Dead Tranny" at Holocene on Wednesday at 11pm. The Mercury plans on not seeing it, and then panning it.