QX Meets…Crystal Rasmussen

Photos by Michael Chapman

“It can be tough not fitting in – but I also kind of live for it.” We meet author and drag queen, Crystal Rasmussen.

Everyone should read Crystal Rasmussen’s new book. It’s called “Diary of a Drag Queen” but it’s so much more than that. It’s an account of Crystal’s life and loves, both in and out of drag. It’s about sex, it’s about growing up, it’s about cities, it’s about queerness and otherness. It’s touching, weird, candid and at times cinematically gross.

On the outside, it’s deceptively pink and sparkly, but on the inside it’s a crackling, screaming, fabulous whirlwind of dysfunction. The Nikki Grahame of books. Dylan B Jones spoke to Crystal to find out more.

It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a book and been so immediately engrossed by it…

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Thank fucking god.

The way you write it is very real.

I love this. Pay me more compliments.

Well, something I REALLY noticed is how you put across “woke” messages in a way that isn’t intimidating or aggressive.

What I’ve learned in the past five years, from amazing activists in the LGBTQIA+ community, is don’t back off. Head right into it. Fucking read up, work hard and don’t shy away. So that’s what I was trying to do. Queer sex and queer stuff and pronouns and gender and drag and transness and class…it’s stuff I’m allowed to talk about. I wouldn’t casually talk about other stuff that isn’t my arena. I wanted to show people it isn’t that scary. It’s ok if you get my pronoun wrong. Just fucking say sorry! Like you would if you spill your drink on someone at the club. 

Has your mum read the book?

No, but she’s signed a waiver. I don’t know what she’ll make of it. She’s quite a remarkable person. She was always an amazing mother. She worked fucking hard and made every fucking cup of tea…all that female labour that no kid ever says thankyou for. All the while, being pretty homophobic without realising. But all I was feeling was the homophobia. So as I grew up, she taught me how to break down things for her in a really accessible way. Until I came out – and I was thirteen – she’d never met a gay person who was openly out. But she’s worked really hard and she’s far more on it than I am now. It just shows, as long as people are willing to learn and work hard, then great, they’re worth it. And if they’re not, they can fuck off.

What do you think about the London scene?

First and foremost, I think the London QUEER scene continues to amaze, and change so many people’s lives. That’s the best thing about London for me. The queer scene and the people on it, who work incredibly hard to create spaces for people to make fucking genius work. Every single time, it manages to teach you something new or to entertain. The gay scene…parts of it are really wonderful, in a nostalgic kitschy way. It’s disappointing that there’s still quite rife femmephobia and transphobia and racism. But I guess that’s the case because it’s still really hard to be gay, in many ways. It’s also wonderful. But it’s still really fucking hard. So you can understand why people get angry and lash out – because people are lashing out at them, and have done for their whole lives.

There’s love to be found though isn’t there.

Oh my god, yeah! All my friends are gay!

Do you think gay men are happy at the moment. And are YOU happy, as a non-binary individual?

I don’t know if happiness is a constant state. I’m happy sometimes, in those moments with my friends, when we’re all laughing at a poo story, that makes me happy. But when I look at the world, and I think “it’s ending” and it’s gonna end while we’re under a severely right wing government, and gay rights being revoked in Brazil, and so much shit happening, no I don’t think it’s possible to be happy all the time. But it’s ok to be happy sometimes. I’m happy, I’m angry, I’m excited, I’m lucky, I’m unlucky…I feel all these things.

What have been your personal experiences of day-to-day prejudice?

I was hospitalised two years ago because I was beaten up in drag. All the way through my childhood and teenage years, and then when I got to London, I’ve been pushed to the floor, surrounded on trains countless times, still now people call me – you know, classic stuff like “faggot”. It’s like…yeah, obvs. I think it’s because I’m quite big but I’m also quite effeminate. And I think a lot of men find the disjoint between my femininity and my bigness quite scary. So, instead of being like “oh, that’s intriguing”, they react with violence. It almost feels like a proof of masculinity, that they can take down a big body. Two days ago was the first time I’ve ever been on public transport in drag, since that attack. And that makes me sound really bougie. But it’s just that I won’t do a gig unless they provide a way for me to get there. Because it was just so shit, and it changed so much about me and the way I am in public.

I imagine it’s the sort of thing that stays with you for ever.

It was the fucking straw that broke the camel’s back. I used to dress outrageously every day – floor length dresses and high heels and loads of jewellery and iconic hats and makeup. That was my day-to-day wear. And now I wear black t-shirt and black trousers and black boots. I just couldn’t do it anymore. And it really makes me sad sometimes. But I couldn’t bear the labour of other people’s bullshit. My friends always ask me what I want from life, and my answer is always “safety.” And it’s so ridiculous that I don’t have that. It’s bullshit.

Let’s talk about your book a bit for people who don’t know.

So, for those in the know, who get that kind of knowing, Ab Fabby, slightly naff thing…you may not learn that much from it. I just want it to be a book where you can think “shit that’s so funny, I know how that feels.” That’s what I hope the book does for people like me. Then people not like me, they’ll see the glittery cover and think the title’s really fab, and they’ll think “errmaagood, love it!” And they’ll pick it up, which is great too. I had someone review it on Amazon recently – lol – and they said “I’ve realised my touristic turn through RuPaul’s Drag Race is deeply superficial, and actually this has blown my mind.” So that’s great. There was another thing I wanted to say about the book…oh yeah, buy it!

It captures the feeling of being out of place very well. Being the shiny queer one at the dinner table that everyone notices.

I think all of us feel it a bit don’t we. That feeling of not fitting in. But there’s also a weird thing where you half kind of live for that? Especially when I was younger, I used to LOVE being the outrageous queen. And as I get older I get kind of tired of it. Like, you know what, actually, fuck off, I’m not that funny. It’s my life!

It does make you appreciate your life and how you are.

Oh my god yes. When I was growing up, being gay was just shit. And now, whenever I go and sit with those people – straights – I’m just SO BORED. Sorry straights. That might be like reverse homophobia or like heterophobia or whatever but y’know what…THAT DOESN’T EXIST. I relish the fact that I’m a big old gay because I get to watch these people being so dull. Being gay and being queer is the best thing ever. Me and all my friends have a WhatsApp group, as all friends do. And most days someone will tell an iconic story of what happened to them that day and then someone will be like “omg so glad we’re gay”. It’s just joyous.

Diary of a Drag Queen is out on 7th February, published by Ebury.

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