How much should drag queens charge for gigs?

When a new drag queen or performer asks how much to ask for from clients, I recommend that they think in these terms in a very honest way.

1. How much money will it take to get you out of bed? (If you’ve another job: how much do you make per hour? Because you might need to take time off work to take on a gig.)

2. Think about how many hours you will spend packing your costumes, getting ready, working at the venue, then resting after a late night.

3. How much will taxi fares cost to and from the venue (especially if you live outside the city)?

4. How much will you spend on buying specific things for this gig? (That expensive Frozen Elsa dress and wig will likely be worn once every six months if you’re lucky.)

5. How emotionally stressful will the work/client/coworkers be? (I’ve developed a good sense how many hours of therapy each job/client contact/coworker will cost me. From there, I can represent in monetary terms what that cost will be.)

6. In a very real sense, how often will you get hired by this same person? (If they’re asking for discounts for a promise of more/regular gigs in the future, think about how far in the future they’re talking about, and how often.)

7. Don’t forget the time and effort it will take if you are required to attend rehearsals. (That can very easily add up hours to your time.)

8. Find out when you will get paid. If you strain yourself silly for a gig today that will pay in 60 days, are you sure that it’s worth the wait?

9. Now, after thinking about these things, ask yourself: how much do you want this particular job, and what this specific job means in the trajectory of your career?

Know that, by asking these questions, you are not being a diva. You’re just making an informed decision about taking on work — and that is the mark of someone who is professional.

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The Spice Girls begin their tour today, and I’m crying.

I remember being interested in the Spice Girls because of rumours in Manila that they were transwomen. I was so fascinated that bold queer women were making waves, so I watched their music videos. It turned out they were cis, but I was already hooked by then. (Not that it mattered so much; the sensibility of the Spice Girls has always been queer.)

I’ve been a fan of Ginger Spice from the very beginning, and her confidence on stage in the face of her talentlessness. Bitch can neither sing nor dance, but gurl was she the face of Girl Power. (I revel in my talentlessness because of her.)

Those women really got me through my turbulent teens. I really hated myself in my teens, and I imagined being unloved by everyone. I would spend countless afternoons when I would lock myself in the car, ready to breakdown, but the silliness of the Spice Girls blaring from the speakers forced me to stop crying because how stupid is it to cry to Who Do You Think You Are.

In high school, my friends and I would strip issues of Top of the Pops so we could all get the full page pics of our pop idols. One friend took Hanson, another the Backstreet Boys, and I took all the Spice Girls. Good lord that was fun.

Yes, I’m writing so erratically. I’m blogging like it’s 1997 all over again, and maybe that’s apt.

Break a leg, my beloved Spice Girls! ❤️

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Harm reduction is important.

If you are think of using substances, please talk to someone you trust. (If it helps you, please talk to me even if we are not close.)

If you are willing to hear from someone who uses drugs, park your morals outside. (Pontificating and grandstanding are ineffective in preventing drug use; the priority is to keep your friends alive until they are ready to think about their situation.)

These are useful practices if you know anyone who takes substances.

1. Having a trip sitter is very important. (A trip sitter is the designated person who can stay sober.) In case of any emergency, the trip sitter is able to make the necessary calls and perform first aid.

Sit with the trip sitter while you’re sober to think about your emergency response. Whom will you call in a medical emergency? How will you get to the hospital? What number/s can you call? What will be the first response if you fall unconscious?

2. In many cases, drug users do drugs with sexual partners, so having a trip sitter might not necessarily be convenient.

However, having someone know what has been taken, how much, where it was taken, and at what time is critical. This can make the difference between life and death.

CALL (don’t text) someone you trust to give this information.

3. Agree on a check-in time with someone sober. For example, if you don’t call your friend to say that you are OK after 2 hours from taking any substance, agree that your friend will come knocking on your door to pick you up.

4. Tell someone you trust where you will be. Should it be necessary to look for you, your friend will know from where to start.

5. It’s true what your mum taught you as a kid: don’t take candy from strangers. Candy from strangers can fuck you up so badly, and they won’t feel an ounce of responsibility for you if anything should go wrong. (Even if they did, they won’t know whom to contact if you need any help.)

6. Don’t mix drugs, and don’t mix them with alcohol. It’s very dangerous.

7. If you can avoid it, don’t take drugs. They’re expensive, unsustainable, illegal, and very bad for the skin.

8. If you have already taken substances, though, please talk to someone immediately so risks can be mitigated.

I know it might be embarrassing, but that’s totally OK. It’s better than pushing through that embarrassment only for you to end up in so much pain or even death.

#harmreduction

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Nine years!

Nine years ago today, I drove myself to the hospital because I couldn’t breathe, and my chest was painfully tight. It turned out that I had cancer.

I had many surgeries that took out the tumor and installed appliances in my chest. (For a few years after that, I had a metal object in my chest that protruded like an unripe tomato concealed under skin.) I went through chemotherapy every three weeks for over a year, then I did radiation everyday for a couple of months.

Those were the most physically trying times in my life. I remember banging my head repeatedly against a concrete wall because that pain was giving me respite from the more excruciating pain I was feeling in the rest of my body. I powered through that for more than a year, each chemo cycle more challenging than the one before.

Screenshot-2015-04-14-22.13.09

Wit is a play written by Margaret Edson in 1999, and was adapted in 2001 for a TV-movie by HBO. It captures so excellently the experience of cancer, and imparts wonderful insight about suffering and death.

The kindness of the people around me extended my life beyond that episode. Family, friends, coworkers, even strangers put in a lot of time, labor, and resources to help me get through cancer. Even my then boyfriend reoriented his life and his family’s life to accommodate my treatment. I truly received more kindness than I ever deserved in life.

It has been nine years since I survived cancer, and I have lived a good life. I fell in and out of love, lost and rekindled family relationships, made new friends, built two careers simultaneously, travelled here and there, and helped a few people and causes along the way. All things considered, I’ve experienced so much more than I probably should have.

When I was going through treatments for cancer, I certainly did not think that I would live as long and as fully as this. (My doctor even told me then that I’d probably have 7 good years post-chemotherapy before some of my organs would start malfunctioning; it has been 8 years, so let’s hope he continues to be proven wrong!)

Today is also World Cancer Day, and we should know that individuals, families, communities, governments, and people with influence can raise awareness and education about the disease. 8.8 million people die of cancer every year, and half of these deaths are preventable if we just take appropriate and timely action.

WCD2017_WeCanICan

WorldCancerDay.org has resources on how you can help raise awareness on cancer and treatment options.

To my loved ones who did not make it, we miss you, but you have earned your rest. We remember you fondly!

To my loved ones who have survived, congratulations for a job well done! Let’s hear your stories; they are beautiful and powerful!

To my loved ones who are going through or will go through treatments, the road ahead may be long, but it might be worth the trouble. Whatever happens, remember that it’s your body, so everything is your call! No matter how it feels, you can exercise control over many things; that can be empowering. People will understand and respect whatever you decide, and I hope you do not feel bad about whatever decision you take.

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That arrest was driven by hate.

Last Sunday, eleven men presenting as gay were arrested by the police in a drug bust in a hotel in BGC (a perceived upscale neighborhood in Manila). The circumstances of the arrest present so many unanswered questions, not the least of which is, “How much of this arrest was driven by queer phobia?”

Real talk: I genuinely think that these are the reasons that those gay men were arrested so publicly.

Gen-Aaron-Aquino

 

1. They are queer.

In my country of moral pretentiousness, the queerness of these men makes them worthy of punishment. If the suspects were straight men, this would be handled very, very differently.

 

2. In the Philippines, gay men are still assumed to be rapists.

In their press conference after the arrest, the police reported that the men carried bottles of GBL (something like GHB or liquid ecstasy).

The police did not fail to mention in the very same breath that the drug is used by putting a drop or two in the drink of an unsuspecting person, then that person becomes unconscious. At this point, the gay man will take the person home, and have his way with him. (I can tell you that, while this happens, this is NOT the primary reason that this drug is popular among queer people.)

 

3. In the Philippines, sex is still considered taboo, gay sex, sinful, and group sex, uncomfortably deviant. (This arrest is even labelled in the media as a “drug orgy scandal.”)

That the arrested had drugs on them isn’t what fascinates the public about this. (The amount of drugs found isn’t remarkable at all; let us not forget that PHP 6.4 billion worth of meth was discovered at customs, and the people behind it are still living very comfortable lives right now, free from most of the public’s outrage.) It is that the arrested were assumed to be using drugs to have sex.

That the arrested present as gay made the presumed sex even more worthy of disdain. In this most Catholic of countries in Asia, queer sex is viewed as a sin, therefore, it must be punished by law by any means possible.

That the presumed sexual activity involved more than two persons threw the public into a frenzy. As taboo as gay sex in the Philippines is, group sex among gay men was difficult for many people even to conceive. Since it was so deviant, many people (including other gay men) were very happy it was stopped by this arrest.

All that being said, I do not think that the police actually saw anybody having actual sex during the arrest. The police saw eleven gay men in their underwear, then immediately assumed that they were going to have an orgy. The possibility of gay men being in their underwear doing nothing non-sexual escaped the imagination of the police and the public.

 

4. The queer men were not well-connected.

The arrested probably did not know anyone in power to protect them from this kind of public shaming. Arrests like this do not happen to prominent people not because they do not do drugs or engage in deviant sex; these things do not happen to them because those situations are  well-contained if not prevented.

Also, let us remember that the amount of drugs that were found with them could not possibly destroy the fabric of society in the same way that 6.4 billion pesos worth of meth can. The people behind the billions worth of meth are so well-connected with people in power, the only person arrested in their case was the poor old person who was manning the warehouse when the 6.4 billion pesos of drugs were found.

 

5. The arrested men do hold some power by virtue of being cisgender, light-skinned, professional, and financially able.

They were arrested so publicly because that is as far as the police can punish them. Any further than that, the public outcry would drown out any brownie points that the police would have earned from the ordeal. (Many people in the Philippines happily fight injustice when it victimizes the middle to the upper classes.)

If the men were poor, uneducated, and dark-skinned, they would have been killed by the police, and the public would have thought of them as just another uncomfortable number to add to the statistics of the casualties of this damned drug war.

 

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Incessant negotiations.

Last night, the security personnel of my building stopped me from entering.

Security: Are you a resident here?
Me: Yes.
Security: What’s your name?
Me: Doni.
Security: Doni?
Me: Doni Santos.
Security: In which unit do you stay?
Me:
Security: OK.

He then proceeds to sit down and let me in.

Note that there was no verification of my identity, or of the correctness of any information I provided. No records were checked, but I was allowed entry. At the end of it all, the security personnel achieved nothing but make unpleasant small talk.

I am not angry at the personnel, but at how this sort of behavior is the standard in nearly all my interactions anywhere here.

Taxi drivers, wait staff, sales people, housing agents, cleaners, hair salon staff, etc.: they all do this. They ask questions to which the correctness of te answers does not matter. I imagine that they are required to keep gates that they do not necessarily understand how to keep, so they pass the time doing what they are told without really adding any value.

Conversations are done not necessarily to achieve some relevant output; most of the time, they are done perfunctorily due to a routine established for people. This kind of inefficiency upsets me so much.

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Never forget.

Forty-five years ago today, the dictator President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in the Philippines. Thus started one of the darkest periods in my country’s recent history.

The Marcoses stole billions of dollars from us, mostly money borrowed with interest from governments and international financial institutions. We will not, even in our lifetime, be able to pay out all the outstanding debts the Marcoses put us under.

Marcos espoused the arrest of thousands of young activists who expressed dissent against his dictatorship. These young activist leaders were tortured and raped so that they will be silent or betray their fellow activists. Accounts of these atrocities are well-documented; many of these student activists are still alive today, and they tell these stories like it was yesterday.

Any dissent against the Marcos dictatorship was met with force and impunity. Thousands of Filipinos (mostly student activists) became desaparecidos – members of the civilian population who were systematically made “to disappear.” (This disappearance came in the form of an undocumented arrest, torture, murder, and disposal of the bodies.) Those kids were abducted, and they just vanished; their bodies were never found, and the police could never be tried for lack of any evidence of their participation. It was so widespread back in the day that we even had a term for it: when people were killed by the police in order to silence their dissent, they were not murdered; they were “salvaged.”

While all of this was happening, Imelda Marcos threw lavish parties left and right. She managed to amass two thousand pairs of shoes, and a fuckload of jewelry. Her children all went to the best schools in the world, and ate food whose names most of us could not even pronounce. They were living like royalty with money paid for by the blood and tears of my people.

When international dignitaries were to visit Manila then, Imelda willed buildings to rise from the sea within a few days, burying construction workers in its foundations, covering their bodies in cement because there was no time to pull the corpses out and still finish the construction.

Imelda propped up walls around the shanties that lined the roads so that the dignitaries would not see the poor who have informally settled in the city because they were sustematically dispossessed of their lands. This was in line with her project to show the world “the true, the good, and the beautiful” about Manila.

To this day, the Marcoses (Imelda and all her children) refuse to admit the atrocities that their family committed and benefitted from all those years. The Marcoses still hold public office here and there, and they still have so much political clout that they managed to spin history and get the corpse of President Marcos buried in the Cemetery of Heroes.

Today is the 45th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. Never forget.

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