As Told To | How drag queen culture saved my life

Draq queen culture has, without a doubt, formed a very important and evolving part of the LGBTQIA+ community. People get into drag for various reasons, but it’s often as an escape from the discrimination and stigma they face on a daily basis. 

That’s certainly the case for Tevin Tobias, also known as Dakota Demure, a 24-year-old self-identified gay man from the city of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, who says that turning to drag queen “saved her life.” This is Tevin’s story…

I don’t necessarily have a ‘coming-out’ story, where I sit my family down and explain to them what I identify as. I remember coming home for vac in first-year at Rhodes Uni. I was dressed hyper-feminine – a crop top, and ripped leggings. I also had a handbag to match. The first person from home to ever see me dressed like this was my father and he didn’t say anything. Only after a few days down the line he told me to continue doing what makes me happy. He knows that I didn’t ask to be gay and that he understands.

Some members of my family still to this day show discontent with me being openly-gay. Some family stopped speaking and showing interest in my life as they couldn’t fathom why I “chose” this life.

Coming-out and revealing my true self to my close family and friends was such a huge weight lifted off my shoulder. For years, I’d hidden who I was, roamed in masc social circles to hide my queer identity. I was also one of those problematic closet-cases who spewed vile terms towards other gays because I was so insecure and afraid of who I truly was. My friends always say that my ‘transition’ was a swift one because I went from masc jock to femme in 0.02 seconds.

Upon coming out, I was received well not only by my family and friends but also my wider community.

I’m a firm believer in cutting people off, regardless of them being family or close friends. I’ve gone through too much emotionally to be content with hate from people who claim to love me.

I don’t think any queer individual deserves to be treated in a manner that hurts them mentally, emotionally or physically, especially not from their family. But this is a reality for most of us.

On the other hand, I’ve always sought to educate people on homosexuality and the finer nuances of it. I believe we need to expand the closed minds of the people around us, not for their sake, but for our peace

I’ve always been around drag and surrounded myself with drag queens since I started mingling in queer circles. I started drag in 2017 by entering a well-known pageant in Port Elizabeth.

As a little kid I felt most represented by femme characters in pop culture. so I would dress up as Ariel from the Little Mermaid, and Cinderella – I wanted to explore those identities and my own femininity.

I wanted the glitz and glamour that went with it [drag]. I wanted my presence and performances to entertain people. I needed to mend broken spirits with my boisterous laughter and child-like demeanour and inspire by the way I carry myself perfectly when in drag. I want to do great drag that’s creative and clever.

My drag persona is Dakota Demure (Miss Demure if you’re nasty). She’s a loud, bubbly, ball of fun. She’s well-known for doing well in pageantry as she scooped a few titles since her birth in 2017. Apart from the glitz and glam of pageants, she also delves in the art of lip-syncing and cabaret, where she made her debut performance at Thursgays at Barbados Lounge, Port Elizabeth. Besides the entertainment aspect, she also did a few charity projects in and around Port Elizabeth, solidifying her as a queen to watch.

Dakota has given me a voice, and the needed confidence to stand up for myself and my beliefs, and to stand firm when faced with adversity. She’s very opinionated and she taught me to always use my brain instead of my fists. Dakota is much-loved by my family, least by the ones who know of her existence. My mom has taken a liking to Dakota as she’s a much better listener, she’s much more present and has a few makeup items and clothes she can borrow.

Dakota represents some of the most vulnerable parts of myself. There’s the femininity I hid for many years, the sensitive and emotional side of myself that I’ve protected a lot – but she also represents this constant strength of being fabulous, which is something I think queer and gay people often turn to when they need strength. That’s maybe not something I know how to access as Tevin all the time… but Dakota always represents that.

By Tevin Tobias, as told to Mihlali Ntsabo.

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