It’s not the drag that RuPaul shared with the world.
But he is just as passionate, if not more so.
Gaymer and Allies is a Yakima drag group. They perform weekly at Game & Grog, 118 S. First St. Performances consist of dancing, lip-synching, and audience interaction.
Twice a month, the shows have a theme, requiring actors to perform outside of their comfort zone. The other two shows are free for all, giving them the opportunity to build acts in the genre of their choice, with each performer claiming a style of their own, such as pop punk or heavy metal, although there are crossings.
Gaymer and Allies’ current lineup took shape in 2019 and includes drag kings and queens, hyper queens and burlesque dancers.
“Our cast, most of them are drag kings. It’s not as intense as I would say a normal drag show is because most of our costume changes are t-shirts and jeans, maybe different boots,” Gaymer’s producer said. and Allies Kelsea Farias, stage names Reign Havok (burlesque) and Zak Havoc (drag king).
A Gaymer and Allies drag show is made up of three rounds, and each round includes routines from five cast members. Commentary is limited between each routine, but sometimes the hosts can’t help but have fun and joke around with the audience.
Gaymer and Allies call themselves a drag family. The feeling of family is reciprocated between cast members, Game and Grog staff, and the drag show audience.
The LGBTQ+ community is a marginalized community and finding establishments and events where they can be fully themselves, openly, safe and among peers is not always easy.
“There aren’t a lot of safe places in Yakima where people like us can go and be ourselves, so we try to make sure everyone knows that. We don’t just have allies in our name for fun, we’re here to be helpful,” Farias said.
“I mean, even if you just go to the shows and you’re not part of the cast, there are times when we’ve turned people away from really dark places between breaks.”
As acceptance in the LGBTQ+ community grows, it becomes easier for Gaymer and his allies to help others.
“I hope this makes Yakima a safer place for the LGBTQ+ community, because there really aren’t many places as open and friendly as here (Game & Grog),” the hyper queen said. Hope Matson-Watkins (step name Jinx).
From drag shows to Game & Grog, family support and allies can help spread the word for people to come together and be themselves without judgement, Matson-Watkins said.
“Gaymer and allies, we are here to support you. The entire bar is an LGBTQ+ friendly environment. And we usually invite people in,” said Nicole Barajas (stage name Austin Tacious). “We try to separate ourselves from our groups in order to interact with everyone making sure it’s a safe space for everyone.”
Barajas uses the pronouns she/they and enjoys new and regular audience members. The artists feed on the enthusiasm of the crowd.
“It’s always nice to see their faces and that they bring their friends…and so it’s just nice and the energy is always really good,” Barajas said.
The drag shows at Game & Grog welcome newcomers all the time, most of whom arrive by chance during a show.
Sheena Hoffert (stage name Shane “The Boss” O’Hara) uses she/they pronouns. They and other cast members are approached outside the bar and between performances by newcomers. They said Game and Grog and drag shows was a place to go to be with people who understand and accept.
“It’s like my own little family. I am very close to these guys. You don’t really need to hide anything from them. They are pretty awesome. It’s like having the best friends in one room…I love being here with everyone,” Hoffert said.
Thailia Renee (stage name Torvi Estrith) recently came out as transgender and as a member of Gaymer and Allies she has a safe space to be open. She knows she has a group of friends and family, which means a lot to her and to other members of the Yakima LGBTQ+ community.
“I wanted to do something to help me explore myself and my different sides,” Renee said. “So I thought it would be a good way to try different things, try different styles. Also, it forces me to learn how to do my makeup well.
Safe space and family are common threads for Gaymer and Allies and LGBTQ+ members in the audience. The family atmosphere creates community acceptance.
Gaymer and Allies is a springboard for LGBTQ+ acceptance.
“There’s still so much work to do in the country, but even in our small town, to have a place where people can come and feel accepted, regardless of identity or gender or whatever, and feeling like who they are is more than OK,” said Sarah Gilbert (stage names Oliver Tits, drag king name, and Helena Basket, hyper queen name).
For Gaymer and Allies, drag is a performance and support group for actors and the Yakima LGBTQ+ community.
“I feel like sometimes we’re the only support group they have right now. They’re our friends before they were in the group, so we want to try to give them the best of us- same when they need it,” said Gaymer and Allies producer Jorydn Jensen (stage name Johnny Longboi).
Jensen joined the drag family for something fun to do, and as an attention seeker, acting was an easy decision. Getting to know the Yakima LGBTQ+ community better was a bonus.
“These are my people. They are people I know I can turn to if I have a problem. I want them to be able to count on me the same way,” Jensen said.