We recently announced a new collective of drag artists called Drag Sabbat, which was created during the lockdown as a way to support drag artists. Drag Sabbat is organising its second online drag show this week, with a line-up of Greek drag artists based in different countries and coming from different backgrounds. We had the immense pleasure to interview two members of the collective, Marianah Grindr and McMorait, and hear their thoughts on drag, politics and the struggle for LGBT+ rights in Greece.
Hello to you both! Tell us a few things about yourself, your background.
Marianah Grindr: My name is Marianah Grindr, I’m 25 years old and I’m a drag performer based in Athens, Greece. I have a background in dancing, vocal performance and theatre as well as a degree in Biology (that I don’t use at the moment). In the past I've been part of queer collectives and activist groups, so Drag Sabbat is a project/collective very near and dear to my heart. On the rare occasion that I have some free time, you’ll find me reading a book, watching reality TV or playing Animal Crossing.
McMorait: I grew up in a small city of northern Greece. Being a flamboyant child, I faced homophobic assaults, even physical, from a very young age. I was diagnosed with depression at the age of 14 and I still suffer from suicidal thoughts and sadness. Drag for me was a way to express not just my anger against society, but also the thoughts of many queer people on social and political issues, while still having fun.
What kind of themes and issues do you include in your drag performances?
Marianah Grindr: My references come from a variety of sources, which some might find unrelated or clashing. Ι find a great interest in pop culture, the performativity of fame and celebrity, musical theatre and also Greek cult/trash culture. I believe my drag persona to be a tragic figure, modelled after very strong, beautiful and influential women that were portrayed by the media only as beautiful or sexy and were built up in order to be teared down for the public’s enjoyment. (Some examples of said women are Marilyn Monroe, Amy Winehouse and even Princess Diana.) This is the reason I want to be the most typically beautiful woman on the outside, but there’s always a darker undertone to what I do. I also believe drag to be a social and political commentary by itself, especially when it comes to matters of gender and sexuality — but I’m not one to shy away from putting such themes in my performances or speaking out about them on my social media and interviews.
McMorait: McMorait is very political. Most of my shows include songs of political commentary, often from the punk pop/rock scene. Feminism, antifascism, queer liberation, psychological disorders and much more are included in my themes. Even the places I perform are usually social centres or squats. But I also love some disco/retro moments. These songs make me have so much fun that I could not exclude them from my shows.
Marianah, you are McMorait’s drag mother. Can you tell us more about this relationship and how it defines you?
Marianah Gridnr: My drag mother-child relationship with McMorait is not the conventional one. Usually a drag mother is the one who mentors their kid every step of the way, is the one who does their makeup for the first time et cetera, but that’s not the case for us. I met McMorait at a queer youth seminar in Frankfurt, where I was teaching some drag workshops as part of the seminar. So, in those workshops we talked about how a drag persona doesn’t have to look like a woman, wear heels and have huge hair and so on; it can look however you want, have any gender you want or no gender at all. We also talked about what a powerful tool drag can be for one's self-discovery and social/political expression. All those things resonated with McMorait and they decided to create their persona because of them, so that’s why we consider each other family. Even though I’m always available for any help or feedback I can provide, I can’t take credit for anything they’ve accomplished since then. It all came from their hard work and passion and I’m just happy and proud to witness that.
McMorait, you are a member of the Haus of Proletarea in Thessaloniki. How is a Greek drag house structured and what kind of culture does it promote?
McMorait: Haus of Proletarea was created some weeks after the state-covered murder of Zackie-Oh. We all decided that we want to be respectful to those who carried drag and queer culture before us, as well as pay tribute to the ballroom scene, which has influenced our culture in numerous beautiful ways. So, we decided to create a sisterhood for ourselves. We follow a non-hierarchical structure, so there is no Mother or boss amongst us. We take our decisions in our weekly assembly, where we try to be unanimous. That is also part of our culture: to have a different perspective of social structures.
On the 27th of June we had the Queer Liberation March in Thessaloniki, Patras and Athens. What is the importance of a self-organised queer protest in Greece? How does it compare to mainstream Pride events?
Marianah Grindr: Mainstream Pride events have been reduced to parties and parades celebrating the progress we’ve made as a community. And that is not bad, we all need a few days a year to feel celebrated. But it is also non-inclusive. Most of the rights that have been won and are celebrated concern cis-gendered gay men and women. Meanwhile, our trans brothers and sisters (as well as everyone else with any other gender identity) are still fighting for their rights and for their identities to be validated and not to be seen as a fetish or "a phase". Self-organised queer protests are the way we keep on fighting for all the members of our community. In addition, from my experience in organising or taking part in said protests and events, they are the only way we can be intersectional. We fight every day for the rights of our community, but we can’t forget that privilege has a lot of faces. We must be mindful of the privileges we have, even as queer people, in contrast to other members of the community such as black and PoC, refugees, people with disabilities et cetera, and include them in our fights.
McMorait: In my opinion, mainstream commercial Pride cannot be considered a fight for our communities. It is a capitalistic celebration for companies, politicians and mainstream artists to get rich, a lot of identities and opinions are being erased and only a few, privileged LGBTQs are included in their rhetoric. The need for self-organised queer marches and protests is huge. We need to talk about all the people that are oppressed. We are not only gays or lesbians or non-binaries. We are also workers, we have disabilities, we share other identities that need to be discussed. We see how LGBTQ ally countries treat their ethnic minorities, the impoverished and the homeless. How they participate in wars and create refugees and immigrants. We all need to understand that Pride should communicate with the needs of all queer people, and that our identities don't only include sexuality and gender. Inclusivity and intersectionality are very important, and commercial Pride cannot offer that.
I do not believe that people in power will ever be in our favour. Even if someone claims to support LGBTQ rights, its their actions that matter. The Prime Minister has expressed some horrible transphobic thoughts from inside the parliament, claiming some person that he knew decided to be transgendered because "an alien told them". We do not forget. We can't forget how the current government did not support laws on LGBTQ rights during the last few years. We cannot forget how they are affiliated with the super-homophobic Greek Orthodox church. We cannot oversee how the oppress our sisters, immigrants in concentration camps, workers who lose their rights so that their bosses get richer. There is a name for statements like that: hypocrisy.
Marianah, the second event of Drag Sabbat is coming up this Sunday, hosted by you and with performances by a total of six drag artists. What are we going to miss if we don’t tune in?
Marianah Grindr: I just saw the first draft of our next Sabbat and I couldn’t be prouder. My favourite part about it is that it gives you the chance to see a lot of different types of drag artists and performances in one show (something you won’t be able to do in the clubs/venues). Aside from my award-worthy hosting, we have comedy acts, live singing, huge productions, political acts — and all of that in just 45 minutes and for the very low price of 5 euros (sorry my hosting persona came through for a second). So get your tickets now and I’ll see you there.
Drag Sabbat Vol.II is coming up on Sunday 05 July at 21:00. You can buy tickets and watch the show on Gumroad. Αll profits will be shared equally amongst the artists of the collective. The show will have closed captions in English and Greek.