Dom (name changed*) was 21 when he met his 'drag mother,' and it changed his life. 'I channel my love to drag,' he says. 'I channel my regrets, frustration, and my anger to drag.' After a few months, the transformation under the guidance of his drag mother was complete. When it was time to choose a drag name, she chose Dame Coco. Coco, what her little sister calls her. It means 'big brother.' A trace of Dom, still in Coco.
It was during a performance that Coco met Jayden, who would soon become her drag daughter. 'It is an honor to be her drag daughter,' Jayden says. Soon Jayden could transform into Fenominah. In his small room he points to a large unassuming plastic caryall containing wigs, dresses, butt pads, lipstick and heels. 'That is where Fenominah lives.' Becoming Fenominah has given Jayden the chance to chase passion. 'But chasing your passion is not easy when the passion is not convention.'
Being Queens, the act that allows both of them the most complete freedom, is illegal under sharia law in Penang, Malaysia. Section 28 of the Penang Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1996 criminalizes 'male person posing as a woman.' In March 2016, 12 people were arrested under this enactment. One by one Coco has seen the drag bars close down, and both Coco and Fenominah are secrets from Dominic and Jayden's families.
But the two continue. They believe it to be an act of expression and an act of love. Someday, they hope, they will find acceptance. For now the freedom they practice through drag must remain contained, between them and their audience, behind closed doors.
*changed for security reasons