The burlesque and drag worlds are rife with diversity, vibrancy and ‘alternative’ ways of living – some of which, sadly, don’t get the representation that they deserve in mainstream society.
The world is an unforgiving place and rarely extends the arm of acceptance out to those who appear ‘different’ in the eyes of a society so blindsided by presumed ‘normality’. Here, I interview Tyler T Love, transmasculine powerhouse about living his burlesque and drag life to the fullest, how he overcomes body image issues and how he is basically a total badass…
- Hey Tyler! Why don’t you start by telling me a bit about yourself?
I am a 29 year old transmasculine human, living in Minnesota. I’m engaged to a fellow non-binary human; we have a cat together. I’ve been socially transitioning for 7 years and medically transitioning for 5 years. I’ve been a fan of drag and burlesque since the first show I saw at 18 years old. I started performing almost 4 years ago. Now, I am an active member of several troupes in Minnesota; Dragged Out, Vendetta Vixens Burlesque Troupe, Mad Shaw Menagerie, and Deviance: a Transmasculine Cabaret. My muggle jobs include crafting things for myself and other folx who live the glitter life, as well as helping leather goods manufacturers acquire materials, tools, and knowledge.
- What inspired your journey to become a drag & burlesque performer?
I started performing as a drag king, looking for a little bit of gender affirmation. At first, it was one of the only times I was gendered appropriately. About 2 years later, I got into burlesque. Since then, it has been about changing the relationship I have with my body. Burlesque played an extremely important role in accepting my body as it is, accepting my body as an ever changing entity, and loving my body for the things it is able to do.
- How do you feel after you’ve performed each time?
I feel empowered. I feel grateful.
- How do you relate to your body when you are performing?
If I’m in my zone, I’m not really aware of my body. When I’m fully engaged with my stage persona, I’m less aware of any negative feelings I have associated with certain body parts that usually cause me distress/dysphoria.
- What are your audiences like?
I’m usually performing to a queer audience. Most of the venues and shows I perform in are LGBTQIA* specific. However, I do perform to heterosexual/cisgender audiences as well. Generally, they are there because they appreciate art and various expressions through art.
- As a trans-man, do you feel that the burlesque world welcomes LGBTQI* individuals with open arms?
In my experience, most of the burlesque I have seen and have been a part of is primarily run by queer women. The male troupes who have invited me to perform with them are troupes of mainly queer men. So, yes. That’s not to say I haven’t encountered some fuckery from cis people or misogyny from all kinds of men, but that’s usually due to lack of education and understanding.
- Who inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by the folx I work with – both drag and burlesque entertainers. Everyone brings something unique to the table and everyone has something they can teach. Working with diverse entertainers has allowed me to be exposed to so many styles and ways of doing things. It allows everyone the opportunity to learn and to grow. Apart from the amazing humans I work with, I am also inspired by folx in the greater kink and leather communities – fashion, philanthropy, and acceptance of all kinds of identities and bodies.
8. Do you have a ‘message’ you are trying to express when performing?
I don’t really have a specific message. I hope that my visibility as a queer trans person makes younger folx feel less alone.
As a young person early in transition, I remember seeing transgender men performing as drag kings and finally feeling like I had people to look up to. It was incredible seeing adult men who had already walked the path I was preparing to take. It gave me hope for my transition and for my future. I guess I’m hoping that I can inspire hope and can support other young trans/gender non-conforming folx, the way my elders did before me. There weren’t many visible trans men when I was growing up. I didn’t know I even could transition until my early 20’s, after actually seeing people like me on stage.
- What could society do to support LGBTQI* people more?
Normalize queerness. Protect queer and trans children. Allow people to be themselves. Educate. Give folx tools and language to help them better express themselves in a healthy way.
- If you could give your past self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Be patient. Patience will get you through the dark times and to the good times on the horizon. All things will happen in due time, good or bad. You will be lonely, but you’ll learn to love yourself. Eventually, you’ll find yourself and the place where you belong.
- What advice would you give to anyone embarking on their own
I would like to offer affirmations instead of advice, because they will likely get lots of unsolicited advice. These are the things I needed to hear: You are not alone. Your feelings are valid. You are deserving of love and acceptance.