Off the Cuff: Andre Patton, Drag Ball Committee president

In honor of Drag Ball, taking place this Saturday, April 7, College sophomore and Drag Ball Committee president Andre Patton discusses issues of identification within the queer community, why he loves his drag queen alter ego Andrecia Patron and what students can expect at this Saturday’s event.

Alex Howard, News Editor

What is the difference between drag, cross-dressing and transgender?

I am going to tackle transgender first. It is a process that a lot of people aren’t as well aware of and it’s one that a lot of people think is just this person who may be transitioning or they feel that they just woke up one day and decided they wanted to be another gender when it is much more than that. It’s this overall feeling of how they feel they should be represented and how they feel and identify with themselves. It’s an identity. It’s something that is very, very complex and something that is very dear to those people who identify with it. And it’s a process that takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of time emotionally, it takes a lot of time physically, and it’s something that isn’t talked about as well within the queer community and of course greater society. As far as cross-dressing, people tend to put cross-dressing and drag within the same category. Drag, or how I feel about drag, is more so a persona that you can create as well as something that makes you feel good. It’s both for me. My drag persona is Andrecia Patron. … Being in drag makes me feel good. I feel good on other days too. I feel good being in more gender norm clothing; I feel just fine. As far as cross-dressing, it’s this idea that people have with cross-dressing that they only use cross-dressing when talking about a male-bodied individual. It’s never cross-dressing with a female-bodied individual. Cross-dressing insinuates something that’s seen as strange and within that, people have this conception that people are just playing pretend and within that it causes a problem for transgender people because it’s not something they are pretending to be. It’s not something that they just want to convey to everybody and perform. It is something they feel and that they identify with.

When did you start feeling Andrecia and what made you want to start letting her come out?

I remember I always watched Logo, the queer — or everybody doesn’t always use queer, so LGBTQ — network and I really enjoyed it, but it was never at that point where it felt like something that I wanted to do. I never really dabbled in it until I got to Oberlin and I did Drag Ball. That was the first time I did drag, and I loved it. It was great, it was beautiful, and I created this persona that I call Andrecia — sometimes I give her a little roll with the r with the name — and I just fell in love with how I looked. Even the next day I still wanted to be in drag and I was and so it was great and I was just pumpin’ around in my heels.

Is your family supportive?

Well, my family has recently known that I identify as gay. I haven’t been home to actually see … how people react or how things may have changed. But from what I know and having talked to my mom, I know they’ve been told about it and are fine with it but I’d rather see how everything is going, especially because I grew up Jehovah’s Witness and with a more conservative, Christian background. My mom knows that I do drag and so does my brother. My brother is 100 percent supportive. William, I love him, people know him here because he visits so often. Even when he was first finding out about my sexuality of course he felt weird but he was just like, “No, it’s Andre,” and that’s how he explained it to me. My mom is not as comfortable with me doing drag. She is still trying to get used to it. We’ll see how comfortable she is because I really need this wig to set off the rest of my outfit and she has the wigs that I need and hopefully when I call her tomorrow she’ll let me use the wig.

So you want to use them for Drag Ball?

Exactly. My mom knows about my drag, my brother knows about my drag, but I don’t believe my family knows. I don’t think my mom has told them about me doing drag. They are still in the process of getting used to my sexuality, so I don’t know if I particularly want to reveal that to them now.

When do you feel the most beautiful?

I feel the most beautiful honestly when I’m around my friends. I feel at ease. I feel comfortable. I feel safe. I have really close friends on this campus. I have a lot of friends on this campus, and I love having so many friends, and then there’s people who make me really feel comfortable because they accept me on all levels, for everything, for all of my weirdness. It warms my heart and makes me want to go on. I have all these people in my life, all these wonderful people, all these open-minded people, all these intelligent, beautiful people, then there are more people in this world like that and there’s just no way that everyone in this world thinks the same way.

What are your favorite things to do in heels?

I love to pump. I love to strut my stuff on the runway. Those things hurt after a while, but I remember [Conservatory junior] Lynnesha [Crump] teaching me and [College junior] Ellery [Kirkconnell] and [Conservatory junior] Taylor [Thompson] and [College senior] James [Pressley] how to walk because Lynnesha walked excellently. Girl can pump. Girl can pump. She was teaching us how to do that and that was fun. How to alternate the hips, how to walk and walk in the right way in heels, like the right heel-to-toe ratio, and one thing I will always remember she said is no matter how bad your feet hurt, do not take off your shoes. Don’t take them off, work through the pain, and I do. Something that I really want to do is vogue more in heels, which is a hard thing to do.

What’s vogueing?

Vogueing is basically a stylized dance that is a part of the House Ball culture which is catered towards the queer community. It came out of Harlem and was mainly catered to Black and Latino people of the LGBTQ community … because it created these houses where a lot of people within that time, like around the 1960s, were kicked out of their houses for being gay and didn’t have a place to stay or a place to live so these houses created networks of socializing and families for people to go and look out for each other. From there it grew all these different categories and people walked and competed in different things like face, where they do the prettiness of the face, and vogueing, which is how well you can do that dance and realness, which I kind of like, which is being able to pass as heterosexual so they have realness for trans man and female figure which is for transgender women so there’s a lot of different things. There’s this one song called “I Can Do That Too Bitch” and that’s one vogue beat song and I like the idea of that realness, just being like, “I can be me and I can be this norm when I want to but I’m still me.”

What is your favorite part of Drag Ball?

My favorite part of Drag Ball is the performances, of course. I love the performances because all the students here are very creative and like last year was really great with Drag Ball Wedding because everything was really big and beautiful attire and the bizarre was excellent. Just all the fierceness and the judges were great. You just get so interactive with everyone there, it’s just really a wonderful show. My favorite part is just when it opens up, it just happens, it just starts, all the dancing. It’s the dramatic — bam! — Drag Ball. Get ready.

What performances can we expect to see this year?

Well you can expect to see a performance by Big Freedia. I kind of think of Big Freedia as this crunk artist. I really like Big Freedia’s songs. You get to see Dashaun Evisu, who is a part of House Ball culture … and he is legendary within the Ballroom scene as a vogue master. Also you’re going to see one group called The Zand Collective that you can expect to see a very wonderful and very spectacular performance from; they like to merge a lot of masculine and feminine forms of expression which I feel really contributes to Drag Ball and I feel that all of these performers, every last one of them, will be great.

If someone wanted to approach you for a date or a dance, how would they be sure to win you over?

If you want to approach me for a date or a dance, just ask. It’s not hard. It’s OK. The worst thing you can get is a no, right? But you know I am open to all. The only thing is there’s not really any trick or real smoothness or anything like that you have to do to get me to dance with you. The trick is being able to keep up. The trick is: Can you handle this?