âPunks from my time werenĂÂ˘Ă˘âÂŹĂ˘âÂ˘t supposed to want to be famous, or care about recognition or even having enough money to support themselves. ĂÂ˘Ă˘âÂŹĂ
Â Itâs difficult to sum up the accomplishments of trans performer Anderson (nee Annie) Toone in a few paragraphs.Â Ever since the late â70s, when a teenaged, harmonica playing Toone backed legendary San Francisco blues musicians and beat poets, heâs been a âgenre fluidâ musician, drag king and performer who changes personas as often as some guys switch partners.
âItâs always been my nature to mix, mutate, experiment with and collage together [musical] styles, instruments and cultures.â
A founding member of the New York no-wave girl group The Bloodsâwho he calls âa butch amalgamâ of rap, jazz and punkâToone toured Northeastern U.S. and Western Europe for two years, opening for bands like The Clash, REM and The Go-Gos, while their single, âButton Upâ became a dance hall favorite.
âPart of what we were doing was just being an alternativeâwhether to apartheid, Reagan, Thatcher or the [lesbian-feminists] who told us we couldnât wear leather, watch porn or do consensual kink because they said so.â
When The Bloods broke up, Toone stayed in Europe for a decade, founding first the jazz ensemble Idiotsavant and then country/punk band The Well Oiled Sisters (which headlined the 1990 country music women doc, Stand On Your Man).Â By 1992, Toone was back in San Francisco creating new âdykeabillyâ sounds with the Bucktooth Varmints.Â
When Toone (andersontoone.com) switched genders on stage back in 1980, at New York Cityâs first W.O.W. Festival, he became one of drag kingingâs founding fathers.Â Heâs thrilled with how things have changed since those early days.Â âIn 1980 there were literally three kingsâŚand now weâre in virtually every major city.Â The explosion is fantastic.â
Heâs disappointed that drag kings havenât gained the respect or mainstream exposure garnered by drag queens, but heâs still holding out hope for validation.Â âJohn Watersâ famously said kings would be the flavor of this new centuryâweâll see if our 15 minutes is actually imminent.â
As a king, Toone has held a dozen drag names, putting his âtransgender twistâ on a range of masculine archetypes and exploring âwhat it means to âbe a manâ.Â Itâs the activist strategy ofâŚwriting us erased trans-masculine folks back into the picture.â
Â The multi-talented artist has also taken his drag personas into full-scale reviews, like 2004âs Bucky & Bebeâs Holiday Hooteneanny, and the 1996, one-of-a-kind, drag king musical, Hillbillies On the Moon.
As the workâs composer, Toone says, âIâd love for Hillbillies On the Moon to be revived now that there are enough actual, established drag kings to play all the roles with the conviction they deserve.â
Â Calling himself a âRenaissance cat,â the FTM-identified Toone says his constant need to change is driven by âthe magical and potent actâ of naming and reclaiming things.Â But, he also admits, âPunks from my time werenât supposed to want to be famous, or care about recognition or even having enough money to support themselves.Â IâveâŚused alter egos and bands as defenses against my own personal success and as proof that I didnât need or want itâ[except] in the name of the cause. I now think thatâs a bunch of downwardly mobile crap and I deserve to do well and be recognized for my contributions.â
The former drag king began living full time as a man four years ago.Â Now that gender is no longer as pre-occupying a personal issue, the multi-tasking Toone is juggling a duetâco-starring Toone and a fellow veteran of the punk days (âan infamously sexy female singerâ), crafting original tunes, reviving his drag king history presentation (andersontoone.com/timeline/dktimeline.html) for this yearâs Southern Comfort conference and preparing for the tenth annual drag king conference (2008âs IDKE X, in Columbus, OH).
Â In closing, he says,Â âUntil we as trans folks are not being silenced in our own communitiesâŚand killed in record numbers by our own or someone elseâs hate-filled hands, Iâm compelled to [sing].âÂ
Trans writer, Jacob Anderson-Minshall, co-authored Blind Curves, the first in the Blind Eye Mystery series, available now. Contact email@example.com or visit Anderson-minshall.com for more information.