Drag Queens teach the art of Tucking

Donnarama

Tucking is the art of making your testicles “miraculously” disappear.  But just how does a drag queen make that happen?  Where do they go?

Drag queens and butch lesbians were at the forefront of the gay liberation movement at Stonewall.  Their queer visibility made them conscripted soldiers for a movement in which the majority of its citizenry were invisible/voiceless gay men and women who were mostly in the closet.  Who would have thought that sissies and bull dykes would come to our community’s rescue?  Our militant forefathers and foremothers had serious balls.  And quite frankly, it’s the visible and vocal queers of today that continue to challenge gender, sexuality and sex as our modern day queer warriors.

And that’s exactly what drag artist Barbie Jo Bontemps says in our documentary Balls, ”It takes a lot of balls to be a drag queen!” In the bigger picture, she is certainly echoing our queer herstory, but at that very moment she is specifically referring to the physical, testicular pains that drag queens must undergo to realize their gender illusion.  Tucking your balls is common practice for many a modern drag artist. Whether you are using tight underwear, a gaffe (pulling all your junk back with a sock) or duck tape for tucking, the end result is the same; your testicles “miraculously” disappear.  
 ucking BarbieJoBontemps
To make one’s testicles disappear, you are essentially pushing your balls back into your body’s natural cavities.  It’s kinda uncomfortable, but not overly painful.  Unlike Barbie, Donnarama is not overly enthusiastic about tucking, “I hate 3 things.  I hate shaving my face, shaving my back and TUCKING”!  It’s not easy being gorgeous, but sometimes a girl’s got to do, what a girl’s got to do. Interestingly, this idea of tucking, like wearing high heels or make-up, speaks to the discomfort that many women often endure to also realize the illusion of gender that has been imposed on them by the heterosexual cis-male gaze.
 Tucking 1
Back in my salad days, I used to do a lot of what I would call “clown” drag.  My goal was to look fun and vaguely girly.  For me, drag was a multi-layered tool to play with gender and gender expectations.  That said, I never tucked or gaffed, in fact, sometimes I wouldn’t even shave.  I liked to both shock and amuse my immediate audience. I was never trying to “pass” as a “real” woman.  Some drag queens refer to this as “fishy”, a term that I’m not particularly comfortable with. Part of this discomfort stems from an inherent misogyny of cis-men playing with female gender without any real ownership or consequence.  If things get too “real”, the drag queen can assume the privilege of being a cis-male, whereas women are systematically compromised without any escape.  They suffer physically, emotionally and economically because of their gender.  Perhaps it is women who have the “real” balls after all.
 Tucking Donnarama
Barbie and Donnarama offer a great counterpoint and levity in our documentary Balls.  Their playful, off-the-cuff banter help bridge the conversations around testicular health and men’s health in general, both physical and emotional. Because of how men are generally socialized, they are not having open, honest and vulnerable discussions about their own personal health and how to ask for help.  In its own small ways I hope Balls, with the help of Barbie and Donnarama, opens that door.

~ Nico Stagias, Director of Photography at Border2Border Entertainment

Grab your Balls and hold on!  Let’s discover everything you never knew about your nuts.

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Varicocele – a unique kind of testicle

Adam Graham varicocele

Like varicose veins in the legs, varicocele is an abnormal enlargement of the veins in the scrotum.

Let’s be honest, we are body obsessed, even when it comes to our balls.  Balls “should” be oval shaped and smooth.  When they don’t conform to the norm, we worry, we question why, we keep quiet and hope no one notices.  “Let’s have a beer and forget about it”.
 
Like varicose veins in the legs, varicocele is an abnormal enlargement of the veins in the scrotum. Often painful, varicocele might even cause infertility, as we discovered in our documentary, Balls, as in the case of our courageous documentary subject Adam.  

Adam Graham varicocele

After taking part in a medical study during his undergraduate degree, Adam donated some of his semen and found out that, in his own words, his “sperm was dead”.  Adam jokingly compares his left testicle to an “asteroid”, because it looks enlarged and misshapen.  Aside from infertility, other symptoms of testicular varicocele might include: an aching or dragging like pain, heaviness in the testicle, shrinking of the testicle and benign prostatic hyperplasia (noncancerous increase in size of the prostate).

Get to know your balls. Go step-by-step watching this NSFW testicular self-exam video with Johnny Rapid.


Adam considered surgery to remove the varicose veins in his scrotum, but decided against it because he is a gay man that is not interested in having children.  Though at times his varicocele is physically sensitive to touch or sexual play, he has lived with this condition for most of his adult life and doesn’t see the benefit of going under the knife.  He is also in a supportive relationship with his partner Philip who has no issue with Adam’s “misshapen” ball.  Philip loves Adam exactly as he is.  Adam is lucky.

As men, particularly gay men, we are obsessed with our physical presence.  In another episode of Balls we explore the use of anabolic steroids and how men physically transform their bodies through its use with often disastrous side effects.

Jeremy from I'm a Stripper.
Jeremy from I’m a Stripper.

We aspire to a physical ideal that is unattainable. We are constantly and unsuccessfully trying to transform and mutilate our bodies to fit a singular, perfect mold that only exists in some sadistic Greek god’s fantasy.   For more on this explore our documentary STUDlebrity.

I am no exception.  Though to date I have not been on a course of steroids nor have I had any testicular ailments that I am aware of, I did recently remove 12 moles from my torso.  Granted, some of these moles needed to be removed for health reasons, but the majority of them were removed strictly based on aesthetics.  

Nico Stagias - Director of PhotographyI have too many moles and they look ugly. I’ve struggled with my ugly moles all my life and finally decided to do something about it.  I figured, since I was removing 4 moles, why not remove another 8 unsightly, lumpy marks off my body.  While on the operating table and feeling the pull of my skin being sliced off, I started to panic and have regrets.

This didn’t feel good, emotionally and physically. Why am I putting myself though additional trauma for the sake of vanity? I’ve never had any part of my body removed, including my foreskin, of which I am very proud of (I have a lot of foreskin pride and always encourage parents not to mutilate their young baby boys). Now recovering from my minor surgery, in loo of my large moles, I have large unsightly scars in their stead.  Sadly, I’m no closer to this perfect/ flawless body.  In fact, I’m left humbled, a little embarrassed and further flawed.  I’m embarrassed to tell friends and family why I had this procedure done.  I think I’m sticking to the story of having been in a knife fight.  It will make me appear strong and courageous. 😉   So manly!
 
I guess I should have listened to my Greek mother.  She refers to my ugly moles as “beautiful olives”.  Either a mother’s love is blind, or she can see our true physical beauty, no matter how ugly we think we might be.  Vulnerability is beautiful.  Being different is beautiful.  Being flawed is beautiful.  Thanks Mom.  I’ll be sure to have a chat with you next time I’m considering the operation table for elective surgery. 

~ Nico Stagias, Balls director & cinematographer at Border2Border Entertainment.

Dive deeper into the Balls documentary with director Nico Stagias in this interview.

WATCH the unblurred, unbleeped, balls out version of the Balls documentary on Border2Border Entertainment.

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Shadowlands Pygmalion Revisited

Shadowlands Charlie David & Marc Devigne

My heart is full today.  We just wrapped Shadowlands episode 2 Pygmalion Revisited.  You’ve likely heard athletes, actors or artists talk about being ‘in the zone’ and this whole episode has felt that way.  Perhaps through a mix of focused preparation and a little bit of luck I felt like every day of this shoot my team was in the zone – supporting each other, rooting for each other and contributing creatively to make the best show we could.

Shadowlands miniseries is available on OUTtv and OUTtvGO in Canada and on Vimeo for our friends around the world.

Shadowlands is a book of short stories that I wrote several years back.  For the TV miniseries I selected stories for the initial three episodes – The Hiker, Pygmalion Revisited and Narcissus.  Definitely three very disparate stories but they thematically interweave and all touch on the theme of love.  Negotiating relationships, mourning the loss of a star-crossed love and never having experienced it. 

Shadowlands Charlie David
Charlie David as Rudy in Shadowlands

We filmed episode 2 Pygmalion Revisited first which is the story of an artist who has lost the love of his life and is compelled to paint his lover in an attempt to find communion with him again.  The story was inspired by the Greek myth of Pygmalion and Galatea in which Pygmalion is a sculpture who creates a statue so beautiful, so life like that he falls in love with it.  The goddess Athena takes pity on him and brings the statue, Galatea to life. 

 

My take on the classic myth isn’t quite as succinct nor does it result in a happily ever after.  In fact it may be the most tragic piece I’ve written to this point.  Since the first drafts of the short story and then the script I’ve always felt compelled to play the painter.  His words, his love, his losses felt intrinsically mine.  Though I wanted to act again, I’ve also been anxious about it.  It’s been a while since I’ve been in front of the camera and this role has so many challenges.   For instance, the painter is in every scene.  Half of those scenes are just him with no other actors.  How would I bring to life a whole world; a whole life alone on screen?

Shadowlands Marc Devigne & Charlie David
Marc Devigne (Xavier) & Charlie David (Rudy) in Shadowlands episode 2 ‘Pygmalion Revisited’

The answer for me in many ways was in the casting of Marc Devigne as Xavier, the painter’s lover.  Over the course of a month and a half prior to filming we spent time together in rehearsal or discussion and built our collegial acquaintance into a friendship.  Marc is so special.  He is a truly gifted singer, actor and is thoughtful and gracious in both his creative endeavors and everyday life.  In essence he made falling in love easy. 

Shadowlands - Marc Devigne & Charlie David
Shadowlands – Marc Devigne & Charlie David

We filmed all of the scenes for Shadowlands episode 2 when the painter is alone first over the course of four days and though I hadn’t shot with Marc yet, I had all the richness I needed to shape our relationship in my mind because of his generosity of time leading up to the shoot.  I witnessed how he walks on the balls of his feet when excited, the joys of a road trip with him singing the soundtrack, his predilection for flat ginger ale, his dedication to family, how he looks when excited by a phone call and how it’s impossible not to catch his smile when he throws it in your direction.

Shadowlands Marc Devigne
Marc Devigne as Xavier in Shadowlands episode 2 ‘Pygmalion Revisited’

Marc and I got together yesterday to watch the footage from the shoot and make some selections together.  Since this is a story about a relationship, I wanted to continue to share the film making process with him.  Marc has a great instinct and his opinion has been invaluable throughout this journey.  We’re so excited to share the film with you on the film festival circuit and on TV in Spring 2018!

Charlie  

If you like romance and drama, explore some of our other titles here.

Find out more about the cast and crew of the Shadowlands series on IMDB.

Shadowlands miniseries is available on OUTtv and OUTtvGO in Canada and on Vimeo for our friends around the world.

If you enjoyed this post about the song My Buddy, explore other chats with cast members of the Shadowlands series.

Marc Devigne (Xavier in episode 3 ‘Pygmalion Revisited’ of the Shadowlands series.

Oscar Moreno (Matteo in episode 2 ‘Mating Season’ of the Shadowlands gay series)

Sean C. Dwyer (Alex in episode 1 ‘Narcissus’ of the Shadowlands miniseries)

Nicolas James Wilson (Will in episode 2 ‘Mating Season’ of the Shadowlands gay series)

Vasilios Filippakis (Daniel in episode 2 ‘Mating Season’ of Shadowlands)

Brian Woodford (Drew in episode 1 ‘Narcissus’ of Shadowlands gay series)

Natasha Balakrishnan (Thalia in episode 1 ‘Narcissus’ of Shadowlands

Learn about the hidden ‘Easter Eggs’ in the Shadowlands gay series