Over the past six years, The House of Coxx show has been a pioneering force in the Triangle drag community. Founder Vivica C. Coxx, a beloved figure of the downtown Durham scene, dedicates much of her time to carving out space for LGBTQ folks and allies to forge connections, have necessary and difficult conversations, and appreciate drag as an art form.
Now, Coxx is making an intentional effort to make her family’s entertainment showcases available to a wider variety of people, including children.
Last month, Coxx added an earlier, all-ages show to her monthly drag showcase at The Pinhook, which takes place at 8:30 p.m. one Saturday per month (check the Pinhook’s website for details) in order to accommodate “our folks with bedtimes,” she says. The move makes sense, with drag becoming accessible to wider audiences through the cultural phenomenon of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but with drag shows often not starting until close to midnight. For Coxx, the early show is also about enabling younger demographics to be exposed to the idea of difference early on, normalizing gender exploration for kids. The INDY recently spoke with Coxx about the importance of breaking down barriers between queer culture and younger generations.
INDY: Can you tell me about the all-ages show, and why having this option for everyone to experience drag felt important?
VIVICA C. COXX: We’ve received a lot of feedback over the years that we’ve been doing this work and putting on shows at the Pinhook. And part of that feedback has always been, “Why does your show start so late?” Quite honestly, we knew that a late show would do well, and it would justify paying performers.
Fast-forward to us selling out basically every show since September 2018 and realizing, actually, this is no longer sustainable—we will start losing people because it is too full. People will say, “Why do I even come here if I’m not having a good time?” So, we decided to reduce the number of people who come to the late show by picking out some of those people and having them show up to the 8:30 show.
But also, more importantly, we knew that it was important for our folks with bedtimes. We wanted them to feel like they had the opportunity to see a show and that we were available to them. We do all sorts of drag there, but all of it is palatable for a wide age-range.
You already had one of these all-ages shows in April. How did it go?
We had about one-hundred-forty people come out, which is actually a really good number. Some shows that are late or bands don’t even get one-hundred-forty.
Why is it important for us to create space for younger people or children to experience drag as a cultural art form?
Well, a lot of people think of drag as only breaking the rules and promoting negative behaviors, when in fact, I think of drag as a cultural art form that children should be experiencing, because it has been rooted in activism, social justice, and progress. And it shows not only that you can do whatever you want to do in life and be good at it, but also that you should be good to other people. And that’s what we try to put forward.
But it’s really important because the children can see that whoever they want to grow up to be is OK and, here’s the kicker, their parents are agreeing to that. By a family member bringing a child to a drag show, they’re saying “Wait, this family member is OK with whoever I become, however I become that person.” That’s why it’s so powerful.
Is there a story about an interaction you’ve had with a younger person at one of your shows that really stuck with you?
Yes, there was a show where a parent brought a child. It was just so much fun—the kids were laughing and giggling, but this family came up to me at the end of the show, because they wanted their child to have a hug from me. The child said “yes,” and we gave each other a hug. Well, I later got a message from the family that their child, who was assigned male at birth, found out it was OK for boys to wear skirts, and that boy has been wearing a skirt. Regardless of the gender identity of this child, they just wanted to wear a skirt and for it not to be complicated. And the family shared that bringing their child to a drag show had empowered the child to wear whatever the child wanted. That has always stuck with me.
Thinking about RuPaul’s Drag Race, the demographic that are watching drag through film and television is so much younger now. What are the larger societal benefits that we can hope will come from children seeing diverse gender expressions from a young age, and why is it important, from a community perspective, to be investing in that sort of ideology?
I think the importance of children having exposure to different things is so we can reduce bullying in schools. If kids have already normalized difference, then, when someone is different, it’s no big deal. Maybe it’s even embraced and loved, and it can help to deal with a lot of the problems that we have in the school system, where teachers and administrators feel powerless to stop bullying. Because how do you truly tackle it? But I do think that normalizing difference will help with that.
What are you hoping that kids who come to your show will take away from it?
That they are loved. I want the children to see that community exists. That art is theirs, too. That entertainment can be entertaining and that there are real people behind it. And coming to a drag show where it’s pretty intimate allows them to see that. But it also shows them that they’re important, and so does everyone around them. That mutual respect that happens at a House of Coxx show, I believe, would’ve been so powerful for me as a kid.
Yes, I want to make sure its clear that this show is truly all-ages, and we want folks from all over the community to show up. But we have enjoyed the focus on kids. I think that’s the fun message to get out there: We want everyone, but it’s OK for kids to have a good time too.
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