In conversation with a non-binary drag queen

… who has a new book out.

I can reassure you all that we got a cheap ticket

About this event

Drag performer Bimini Bon Boulash will be joining us for a special livestreamed event, to introduce her new book.

Bimini’s high-fashion looks, subversion of gender norms and openness around mental health and the queer experience, made her one of the breakout stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK in 2021.

Release the Beast: A Drag Queen’s Guide to Life is Bimini’s funny and moving account of how drag took her from the brink of self-destruction to the mainstage, through a kaleidoscopic blend of personal anecdote and life lessons from the icons who have inspired her.

Bimini will talk to the Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson about self-love, acceptance and the life-changing magic of dragging up, and she will also be answering your questions live.

From the Eventbrite blurb

Who he?

Bimini Bon Boulash is otherwise known as Thomas Hibbitts. He identifies as ‘non-binary’ and has ‘she/her’ pronouns whilst in drag, and ‘they/them’ pronouns out of. He is famous for being runner up in series 2 of the British version of Ru Paul’s Drag Race.  The Guardian journalist interviewing signposted her sycophancy early describing him as having achieved ‘national treasure’ status.

His first book Release the Beast has made it onto best seller lists, an achievement celebrated on a night out with mate Shon Faye.  In fact, Shon spent many an hour listening to Hibbitts’ stories, advising him on what to include whilst Hibbitts lay on his chaise lounge.  Hibbitts wants us all to read Shon Faye’s book The Transgender Issue, and he carefully and pointedly, almost as if it wasn’t really second nature, repeatedly referred to Shon by name, avoiding pronoun use, until a final and deliberate ‘her’ arrived. 

Halloween-time is apparently a busy time for drag queens and Hibbitts has several parties lined up. 

Release the Beast

Although the book includes stories from his life, he claims it isn’t really a memoir since he is only 28 years old and too young for that sort of thing. However, a brief eyeball of the sample available on Amazon suggests it very much is. Here is his first mouth-covering anecdote.

From the free excerpt on Amazon

He clearly has never met a 3 year old.

He also believes it an ‘anti-self help book’. Hibbitts’ breakthrough thinking is that he wants people to know that they are allowed to mess up, and that the best art arises out of this.  A sorely missed message from the self-help genre, I’m sure. 

On being open minded

Hibbitts was keen to emphasise that he is a loving and tolerant person and the book urges us to be tolerant of others and differing perspectives. Let’s look at that nuance up close.

Hibbitts says he wants to find the middle ground by everyone accepting each other and moving forward. If people ‘argue’ that means there will be ‘no progress’.

The interviewer said that the ‘book probed big themes such as “Is God genderless?”’ (a sentence most would be embarrassed to say out loud, no such problem from Nicholson).

Hibbitts reflected that when he in full drag in public, people were more positive towards him than when he opted for a more androgynous aesthetic.  Nowadays he is a lot less afraid going out dressed up in public.

Big moments

Hibbitts’ big moment on Drag Race came when he dressed up as Hilary Clinton and did a lap dance for someone dressed up as Donald Trump.  The music was Fergie’s M.I.L.F $ (MILF stands for ‘mother I’d like to fuck’, in case you weren’t aware) and he pours milk over himself – oat milk, rather than ‘titty’ milk, as he’s a vegan.  The routine apparently had a political message.  The video to the original song is as bad as you’d dare to imagine, including a two second clip of a pre-pubescent girl pouring milk over herself whilst sporting an obvious milk moustache (nudge nudge wink wink) and shot of a baby being breastfed.

Another was his ‘Snatch Game’ performance – he did Katie Price, in which he jokes that Price’s breast implants got ‘held at gunpoint in South Africa’. Basically the type of joke Bernard Manning would have made in the 70s.

You might think from that, that Hibbitts isn’t bothered about sexualised and sexist slurs, but in fact he cares very much about the ‘cis women’ who do drag. Also, the drag kings, none of whom have yet to make an appearance on Drag Race. Funny that.

Conversation about being non-binary

On Drag Race he and another contestant had a conversation about being non-binary which apparently had a big audience reaction. Hibbitts feels that it was an important conversation to broadcast, especially for the older generation who grew up around a lot of gender non-conforming pop stars, like Boy George, Prince, etc. This generation hadn’t understood that these people were actually non-binary.

That conversation:

All I see is a vulnerable man (not Hibbitts) being exploited by TV producers

Question and Answer session

How do we become genderless, without leaving behind the struggles of sexism and misogyny that females have faced since the dawn of time? I am ready for this future.

Toxic masculinity needs to be addressed. It’s difficult because they have the higher positions of power. We know that there is a patriarchy and a higher power of men that control everything. Women and queers need to be in positions of power all around the world. [Giggle] If the leaders of the world were female-bodied people or women the world would be such a better place. There wouldn’t be hate or war, or any of the stuff which is happening right now.

Do you want to go into politics?

Hibbitts went for lunch with Sadiq Khan. Khan endorsed him to run for Mayor. The greatest struggle would be to wear great outfits.

Another question was from a woman who wanted her boyfriend to dress less boringly, giving a clue as to who the main audience for his book is.

We also learnt that Hibbitts can do things as Bimini that he wouldn’t dare do as himself. Surprise surprise.

Hibbitts told us we must be open to more radical ideas that the ones we hold and that we shouldn’t tell other people that they can’t do things.

He was recently interviewed in the Times and the interviewer asked:

Might “gammon-faced types who don’t really understand transness or queerness” do more to divide than to win people over to her cause? A light-hearted joke about someone having a pink face is, she says, nothing compared with what she has had thrown at her. 

From the Times article

On the webinar Hibbitts doubled-down, claiming that it was a joke that ‘punched up’ as the top of the food chain were ‘cis white straight middle class men’. So that’s okay then.

Reflection

It isn’t great that we have non-binary artistes like Bimini Bon-Boulash batting for the side of female bodied people and challenging gender stereotypes? No doubt his 15 minutes of fame will be over soon, or at least I hope it is.


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