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Meet Sugar Cube the disabled drag queen

Wayne Allingham as Sugar Cube walking across a road
Wayne Allingham as Sugar Cube walking across a road Image credit: theculturetrip.com

Wipe off the makeup, flamboyant dress and see through that wicked sense of humour and you will find Wayne Allingham, but he’s better known in the LGBTQ community as drag queen Sugar Cube.

Having hemiparesis hasn’t held him back, in a recent interview with Gay Times he traces his career back to teenage years when he first took to the stage.

“I first got into drag many, many years ago when I was about 17 years old, back in the 1980s,” Allingham reminisced. “I did it for a couple of years and then I gave it up, but I came back about eight years ago because I love performing. It’s all about putting that smile on people’s faces and making them laugh. If I’m going to see a drag show, I want to be entertained!”

One thing he finds thoroughly entertaining is a particular popular TV show presented by one of the most famous drag acts on the planet, but as he points out, not everyone switches it on.

“Sugar hates Drag Race,” Wayne joked. “She’s a very traditional, old-school queen in that sense. I do like watching the show, and I do like RuPaul’s ethics, and how the queens have to make their own outfits to hone their craft, but there’s no need to be bitchy all the time. American drag is totally different to English drag.”

But he believes the show is missing something, a disabled drag queen which he thinks is long overdue and would do wonders for the series.

“It would showcase diversity,” he stated. “It would show that we are human, that we can do things that able bodied people can do – sometimes a bit slower – and I think it would encourage a lot more support for disabled people. We don’t want to be felt sorry for, because disability is a gift, but it’s about understanding. And disability isn’t always visual, you could have mental health problems or brain damage but look totally able-bodied. There’s a lot of things about disability that people don’t understand.”

Just to like anyone else with a noticeable disability Wayne has experienced the stares in the street by people surprised you can’t be a disabled and a drag queen.

“The biggest challenge I face is people staring, because my disability is visual, you can see it,” he explained.

But it’s not just the looks in public, there’s the added ball-ache trying to find venues willing to book him.

“The shows are far and few between,” Wayne pointed out. “Being a disabled person, we have to fight, we have to bring so much to the table just to say, ‘Give us a chance’. I suppose you could say there’s discrimination. London is full of drag queens, and it’s so cut throat out there. You’ve got some amazing acts, but it’s the newbies who get all the work first. The venues need to have diversity in their artists.”

Not to be outdone he launched his own club night, Queer & Here which gives disabled performers the opportunity to fly the rainbow flag with pride, but venues which cater for the LGBTQ community are few and far between.

“There are nights out in London like Bar Wotever and Cocoa Butter which are very diverse, and we’re trying to do that for the disabled community,” he explained. “To be honest, I’m shocked that there aren’t already nights like this, especially in London. And it’s not just for disabled people, it’s for everyone to mingle. If we don’t do that, how are people going to understand each other?”

Wayne highlights accessibility is talked about in the LGBTQ community, but “we are not diverse until everyone is accepted and given a platform. Being a disabled person, I do go out and I do make sure that I’m seen because I don’t give a damn what people think. But there are a lot of disabled people who can’t go out, or won’t go out because they’ve got to plan their evening and make sure the venue is suitable – if you’ve got autism, is there a quiet space? If you’re in a wheelchair, are there same-level toilets? A lot needs to change.”

He also runs a community group for disabled members of the LGBTQ community at London Friends in Kings Cross which is “a social evening to meet new people,” he says. But while dedicated events are an essential part of the disabled LGBTQ experience, Wayne believes it’s everyone’s duty, disabled or not, to make the queer community more inclusive.

“LGBTQ people are so quick to judge each other and shame each other for their differences, but we’re a community, and we need to come together,” he pleaded. “Let’s become a big community, let’s not divide ourselves, let’s come together.”

Wayne Allingham has a ‘bent arm’ which he jokily refers to as his ‘gammy leg’.