| November 2021, Por Alberto Vargas

A drag queen on the verge of extinction

He is Gledys Macías, but he is about to become Destiny. Being a drag artist has marked these last years of his life, and at the same time, it is the one thing that establishes himself in the world. What does being ‘a drag queen’ mean? He is Destiny yet he is about to be no more. This article is part of a partnership between La Barra Espaciadora and Revista Late.


His right hand holds a brush which continually moves up and down over powder foundation, the first layer of his makeup. He looks at himself in the mirror and moves his head both ways, his eyes fixed on his reflection. He is an inexpressive man. Except for the movement of his hand, he now looks like a statue. Today he is giving one of his last shows.

Gledys Macías started out in his twenties. However, back then his drag performances were intended to make the lgbti community visible in the eyes of society and to draw attention of the press. At present he is nearly thirty years old and he is no longer just ‘a boy in a dress’.

Then, why leave it now?

As time went by, it was not necessary to call anyone’s attention anymore, and my drag performance somehow became more of a symbolic assertiveness about my rights, related to experimenting with my body and to my gender identity. And I have already played those roles. I feel I want to leave it behind now, basically because the lgbti community borders on sexism. You are almost always laughed at on account of the femininity you are seeking to emulate. And you are also laughed at because they think you are some entertainment wacko.

Unfortunately, it is a repeating pattern. The environment we as cross-dressers work in on a daily basis is like that. And the social media too, as it is the scene of the lgbti activist community now. There you’ll see the typical clarification messages of those who openly claim to be “not effeminate”, because within our very own community, there is this idea that the more masculine you are, the better. Masculinity has an advantage over femininity, whether you’re straight or gay.

Are you fed up?

In my case, I’ve kind of given up. My character’s goal was to fight against sexism, but I’m exhausted. The psychological toll it takes on you is such that in my case, I had to start taking pills for depression. There comes this moment in life when you just get tired of fighting and you say ‘okay, I’ll help those who have the courage to continue fighting but I won’t keep on doing that. I give up.’ And I don’t think it’s is a bad thing given that we, as human beings, also have the right to step aside, to give in to social pressure and see what happens. Besides, all characters eventually evolve. But at some point they’ll die or have to move out of the way.

Clearly your drag is not a conventional one. How did you combine Destiny’s particular femininity with your masculine features?

Among the community, there are bearded drags. In fact, they have existed for centuries, you know, bearded women for instance. And when it was my turn to combine both aspects I said to myself ‘well, why shouldn’t I keep my beard?’ Unfortunately for me, this caused a huge problem. Trans femmes used to say ‘he is mocking us dressing like a trans while wearing a beard’, but then gays would go ‘he’s got a beard and dresses like a woman’. I just couldn’t do anything. Guys didn’t like me because my thing was related to femininity but trans girls didn’t like me either because I was growing a beard, and they were obviously thinking I was making fun of them. What box was I supposed to fit in? There was none! Then people, my friends, started saying ‘You belong to queer.’ But I’ve always been opposed to queer. I don’t like being called ‘weird’ just because it’s a fancy English word. No. Using that term is concealing the heterogeneity within the lgbti community of Latin America. People have the right to choose how they want to identify themselves: lesbians, gays, intersex, bisexual. These are all terms we’ve managed to conquer through years of fighting, and they cannot be grouped together under the queer concept. Besides, it’s also a term that ends up being one of the most colonizing words to name Latin America.

What term defines Destiny?

Right now, none.

And Gledys?

Same thing. We have both decided to stay in a blank box for some time, until we figure out where to place ourselves.

Did you have to put up with discrimination and sexism?

There was a time I did, and I would try to let it go. It has to do with the fact that I became a Buddhist and that’s what you basically learn. To let go… But times teaches you to draw the line and to put a halt to people’s shit, because what goes around does not necessarily come around. They will just do it again and again until someone says ‘Stop it!’ You have to learn how to put an end to those violent patterns, or else…

How did you do that? How did you deal with that violence?

I used to carry a jackknife. I don’t know how to use it though, of course. But I used it to scare away bullies. There was a time when all of us, my drag friends, trans femmes and I would get out around the area, after the show finished, we’d go strutting. And there were always people who got amused and they looked at us, surprised as they walked by. But then there were others who were quite hostile. For example, it would happen that we passed by some butch lesbians —the more masculine-looking ones— and they would push me because my trans character is very lady-like, you know? They have learnt that you have to be violent because showing that you’re better by acting like this is something cool. That’s why, I would draw out my jackknife, just to use it as some sort of shield, to scare them away so that they would not tease us.

You’ve been going through the process of leaving Destiny behind for almost six months now. What have you done lately?

I taught a workshop called Transform, School of Drag Performance. Seven guys signed up. And well, I taught them a little bit of everything I learnt back in university, at the School of Art, and also in life as a drag artist. I taught classes on drag art, performance, makeup, costumes, activism, runways, identity… I think I learnt more from them than they did from me. My job was mainly to help them empower themselves so they could see how valuable their job is. And to teach them to put an end to mockery, wherever it comes from.

Do you think your future path will be oriented to training drag artists on all of these topics?

I don’t think so… I don’t want to be self-centered. But I what I would really like is to pass down all of the things I’ve learnt, because they might be useful to someone. For instance, there were guys in my workshop that said ‘I am a performer’ but they couldn’t define what a performance actually is, or to tell the difference with what a mere show is. Performing is assigning meaning to an action. And an action and a show are two entirely different things. An action is a sign that is all about language, denotations, connotations. A show without an underlying meaning is not a performance, even if our senses get clouded by the spectacular impactful quality of them. This is precisely why, the only thing I wanted to do for these guys was to foster their own development, to aid them in developing their own sense of what art is, what performing is so that, when they get attacked, they are able to defend their work, which should be packed with their own ideas and emotions.

Final strokes

Gledys is about to finish doing his makeup. His hands stop moving and he approaches the mirror slowly…

He stares at his face, from his forehead down to his jaw. ‘Looking like a million dollars, as usual,’ he says smiling. He makes a wry face. He looks like one of those porcelain dolls.

Five months ago, Gledys worked with children at a school and art workshop called Alvear, located in San Cristóbal Island, in Galápagos. This may have been decisive in his resolution to leave Destiny behind. ‘People in Galápagos are incredibly sexist,’ he remembers. Over there nobody knew anything about me. Can you picture myself, working with children when people over there carry that huge stigma? However, developing creativity and awareness about people’s rights is something which must be done precisely from those very early days of childhood, in schools. If it is not discussed in that moment, then it’s over. During my time on the island I remained closeted, and that takes a toll on you. In fact, it was when I was coming back from there that I made up my mind about leaving my character behind.’

Did you notice any changes upon your return?

Definitively. I came back being homophobic, sexist, and an atheist.

I’d like this to have a fancy ending, but I have to start from the scratch. Begin rebuilding. And since that formula does not come in survival books, you are only left to wonder: ‘Shit… what now?’


LATE es una red sin fines de lucro de periodistas que cuentan el mundo en español