Papi Churro’s BDE in a Queen-Dominated Scene

Drag king aims to be a voice for the voiceless through performance art

Papi Churro (Photo by Javier Gonzalez)

“I want my drag persona to be this force of reckoning,” drag king Papi Churro declared to Qmmunity. “Like Big Dick Energy without having the dick.”

Cue scene from The L Word with lesbian lothario Eva "Papi" Torres, who is the inspiration behind the performer’s name. “She demanded respect,” explains our IRL Papi. “She’s not even identifying as a man, but people are calling her Papi. That’s who I want to be.”

In a scene that is predominantly queen-heavy, Papi Churro has made a name for themselves in the Austin performance community over the past five years. As a fashion designer who transitioned to being a full-time drag king, the equation for success has been anything but easy. “My costumes had to be 10 times better, and my performances had to be 10 times more choreographed,” says Papi.

Even battle scars have been left from binding (a common technique used to minimize a person’s breasts) earlier in their career. For a time, the drag king admits they felt a need to conform to – and sustain – a hypermasculine appearance. Now they urge other performers, especially newbies, to not hurt their bodies just to please a crowd. Papi has since traded in their binding tape for pasties (because guys have boobs too!). “They are getting a dude with boobs,” Papi jokes. “I call them my moobs.”

This king has come a long way since those days (exit stage left: toxic hypermasculinity) and has found triumph in their politically charged performance style with heavy cultural inspiration from their Apache roots. Identifying as Two Spirit – signifying gender and sexual orientation fluidity in Native American tribes – Papi treats every performance as a ritual showcasing a more masculine side of themselves. At the core of each one of these rituals is a message of activism against issues including xenophobia, sexism, and racism to ultimately act as a “voice for the voiceless,” says Papi.

Though Papi’s art has long focused on fighting back against phobias and isms, they became even more committed to speaking up for marginalized communities after they personally came under bizarre, right-wing fire last June. A Houston-based anti-LGBTQ hate group (as declared by the Southern Poverty Law Center) who shall remain nameless targeted Papi for being “some kind of bizarre stripper type” in a 57-page report that condemned the king for participating in a special Pride-themed Drag Story Hour event in Leander. (The event, which silently shifted away from drag performers to become a less “controversial” pride celebration, brought out anti-LGBTQ protesters and counterprotesters.) But Papi, in true performer fashion, took the lemons thrown at them and made lemonade, creating Austin's premier all-trans revue and burlesque troupe, Some Kind of Bizarre Stripper Productions.

In addition to their newest production company, Papi co-produces ToyBox with Chique Fil-Atio; Joterias with Ruby Knight, Banshee Rose, and host Tatiana Cholula; and the city’s only all-drag-king troupe Boiz of Austin with Alexander the Great and the troupe’s founder Mad Max Morrison. You can also find Papi in the monthly drag-horror revue Die Felicia, hosted by Louisianna Purchase and Papi’s drag mother Zane Zena.

Through their heritage and activism, Papi will continue to shine in and around Austin, bringing that BDE wherever they go. Rumor has it that the Boiz of Austin may bring their act on a Eurotrip this summer, so stay tuned! To keep up with Papi’s upcoming shows, go like ‘em on Facebook.

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