Just over a year ago I was sat scrolling through Instagram (as I tend to spend many an evening doing) and I discovered that a brand new store would be opening in the heart of Cardiff. However, the queer emporium is not like other stores as it is a hub that promotes a range of queer-run businesses. This is a store that stocks a range of products including clothes, pins/patches, and books (including the heartstopper novels that inspired the hit Netflix series of the same name which we reviewed at http://www.nerdly.co.uk/2022/05/12/heartstopper-season-1-review-netflix/) and bath bomb from a plethora of LGBTQ+ supportive companies and provides a storefront for small businesses to promote their work which can only have a positive effect on the selected businesses! If you are even in the city centre of Cardiff and you want to not only shop ethically but also want to celebrate your queer side then I strongly recommend popping into the queer emporium as the staff will instantly make your feel welcome! The team behind this project have also managed to construct a small kitchen in the space where they stock a range of soft drinks, brew a collection of hot drinks and even craft a series of fabulous cocktails. When I noticed a drink brilliantly named Camp Disco Diva (complete with a handful of glitter) I know that it was a drink for me and I was not disappointed!
Queer emporium is not only a one-stop shop of all things queer but also organise regular events (with the full list available at https://queeremporium.co.uk) but most importantly for this review is their bi-monthly transition evenings hosted in the royal arcade! Now I know everyone is wondering which store in the arcade was rented out for the evening but the event was actually hosted in the centre walkway between the storefronts with each end of the arcade being closed so that only people who purchased a ticket (for the extremely low price of just £3) could be in attendance. The reason that it was so important that this event had its own designated safe space is because the performers and audience contained many trans/gender fluid people which is a community that has been targeted recently. It is so important that the queer community and specifically the trans people within it are given a space where they can feel comfortable and safe. It was not just the closing off of the arcade to general people that helped to create this designated space but also the incredible keeping the faith were present to off gender conforming haircuts and nail painting that was offered in a pay-what-you-can basis. I can’t imagine experiencing some sort of gender dysphoria but not being able to afford services that help you present yourself the way you feel on the inside so having a service that does not charge over-the-top prices can only be a positive inclusion!
Just before Christmas I attended my first ever Dragged 2 Church event which had a bunch of performers take over a local church to perform one of the most unique yet fabulous Christmas events which you can read more about at https://rhysreviews.com/2021/12/08/dragged-2-church-event-review/. At this event, we were lucky enough to meet the incredible Justin drag for the first time so I was so excited when it was announced that Justin would be hosting the entire transition event! It was his responsibility to make sure the entire event ran smoothly, introduce each act and even treated everyone to a couple of performances throughout which I know I would find incredibly stressful but Justin seemed totally at ease! He opened the entire show with an incredible performance of “Titanium” by Sia with the first half of the number being a powerful and emotional vocal display, the second was a dance party anthem that had the audience up and dancing throughout! The first half of this number was excellently performed with the higher sections of the track being particularly impressive! Later in the show, Justin have a much more stripped-back rendition of “Iris” by Goo Goo Dolls which was explained as a message regarding the importance of family (chosen or otherwise), especially for trans individuals. This performance was very emotionally driven so much so that there was visibly audience members moved by the vocal stylings of Justin! We were also treated Jordropper who is not a performer I have met before and so I was very excited to see what they would bring! This drag king looked absolutely incredible in their punk rock-inspired look with the most incredible make-up I have seen in a very long time! The second act of this show was where Jordropper really shone with back-to-back performances including an insanely powerful spoken-word piece all about mental health including a physical mask brazen with the words “I’m fine” on it. This was such a moving performance that I personally was not expecting but made sense to give a full perspective and account of a trans person’s journey!
The headline of the night was London’s own Prince Silver who I was not aware of prior to this but have very quickly fallen in love with his unique performance style! The first performance from the special guest was to “Marry the night” which started with him dressed as a priest and as the song progressed the number of clothes on his body decreased! It takes tremendous courage for a Cardiff-based performer to strip in an arcade so for someone who isn’t from the city to do this was surreal! He tore off his trousers in one fowl swoop which had myself and the rest of the audience gagging. On top of this he was also able to showcase a series of impressive stunts on a plastic chair which was amazing to watch. Silver possesses a rather unique combination of sensual stripping and hilarious physicality which I thought made for an incredibly entertaining performance! The second performance was much more a parade of traditional masculinity but yet still used to convey a really important political message. The start of the number saw Silver strip down to a rather sexy harness and then preceding to give Justin Drag a lap dance. He used to lyrics of “Macho Macho Man” by the village people to flex his perfectly crafted body to every single person while showcasing his comedy skills. The later part of the performance took a much more serious and political slant as the lyrics of Gloria Gaynor’s “I am what I am” blasted across the arcade as Silver paraded around waving a trans flag! We were also treated to a Q and A panel including the three performers and trans aid to talk about their individual journeys with gender and support available to people going through the trans adventure!
Overall, this event was a celebration of queer identity and was particularly important for those within the trans community. The walkway of the arcade served as a wonderful stage which alongside the intimate audience meant that ever single person could feel seen and included which was the whole premise of these transition nights! I would rate it 4.5 stars out of 5 and recommend anyone within the LGBTQ+ community to keep up for their next event!