Michael Christian, Mr. Trans Michigan USA 2023, is a drag king. And like his sisters in the artform, he is feeling targeted and attacked.
“It’s really unsettling,” Christian told Pride Source. “It’s nerve-racking. I don’t understand it. As someone who is 43, I never thought that we would be going back in time.”
While Michigan, at least currently, is in good hands with the Democrats controlling the legislature and the governor’s office, other states across the country are acting rapidly to ban the innocuous art of drag. Tennessee, for example, recently became the first state to ban drag performances in public, a law that will take effect in July.
“It’s a direct attack on the transgender community,” said Christian of the Tennessee debacle. “I think it’s really sad.”
Christian went on to say that there are people — lots of them, possibly a majority — who love drag. “It’s popular on TV. They come to our drag brunches. They come to the drag king and queen story hours and now we’re banning it. It’s just art. We’re just dressing up and dancing. It’s just another form of art.”
All of this is not to say that Christian is unaware that even within the trans community he has privilege. He presents effectively as a regular ol’ six-foot-tall white guy. “I’m super blessed,” he said. “I pass very easily in the world.”
For 20 years, Christian has been performing drag. He had an "average childhood" while growing up in Saint Clair Shores, but feelings of gender dysphoria set in by the time he reached puberty.
“I definitely remember that I did not want my body to develop in any female way,” he said. “But you don’t necessarily have the language for it. This was the '80s. Even when I first came out, I came out as a lesbian. There wasn’t a language for being trans. It was, ‘You’re gonna be butch, and you’re gonna be over here.’”
It wasn’t until Christian found his way into Gigi’s Gay Bar that he discovered trans women. “I was like, ‘Oh my god. This all makes sense. I am you but the opposite.’”
The first time he performed was at an amateur night at the long-gone Rainbow Room in Detroit. When he dressed as a male for the first time, things all came together for him.
“It’s kind of like you can breathe,” he recalled. “It all makes sense. You can look in the mirror and you can start to decide what path you’re going to go on and what path your journey is going to take.”
From then on, Christian said that he began to love himself and no longer look down who he is. “I never thought I had a place in the world, that society would always look down on me as ‘other.’ Finally, I figured out I didn’t have to live that way.”
And now he's built a reputation in Metro Detroit, taking
home titles such as Mr. Power Diva, Mr. Grand Diva, Mr. Birdcage, Mr. Bretz and Royal King of Kings of Michigan. But the Mr. Trans Michigan USA pageant is different. There’s no talent portion required to take home the title. Instead, Mr. and Mrs. Trans USA pageantry system’s mission is to celebrate and promote the development of transgender, non-binary and gender-nonconforming leaders as visible advocates and role models for the community at large.
Christian said that other pageant systems are all entertainment-based. “And I think that’s fantastic and great. They’re all wonderful. I go to all of them. But the fact that it’s community- and platform-based... you’re really going out there and talking to people, going to town hall meetings and speaking at universities. You can help bring the trans community to the light. Show that we’re just average human beings trying to make our way like everybody else.”
As part of his Mr. Trans Michigan USA platform, Christian has partnered with Ferndale Pride to raise funds for the organization. He’ll perform in a number of fundraisers leading up to the pageant. His next appearance will be at Ferndale Pride’s Planet Pride event on March 25 at 215 West in Ferndale. The event is billed as “an evening of interplanetary awesomeness featuring DJs, drag queens and dancing” and will benefit Ferndale Pride.
Christian will donate half his tips to the organization.
Julia Music, executive director of Ferndale Pride, said that Christian is “willing to help anyone in the trans community. He is just really a person who cares about and wants to help other people.
I will be trying to go to the competition to see him because I’m just so proud of the work he’s done. The board and I are very honored to have him choose us.”
In addition to Planet Pride, you can catch Christian at the Motor City Drag Kings brunch at Gigi’s the first Sunday of every month. He also just booked a gig at the University of Michigan. “We’ll do a little spiel on transgender health,” he said. “Then we’ll do a show as well.”
And if he were to win the competition in November and become the next Mr. Trans USA?
“I think it would mean a lot,” said Christian. “I think it would be the accumulation of my entire drag career and my journey to be who I am. And obviously give me the opportunity to share my platform and what’s important to me nationally.”