One fifth of DENIM, the drag supergroup, Crystal broke the mainstream back in 1916 with her hit single “Oligarchs just wanna have fun!” and later contracted incurable crabs in 1967 from four of the five Beatles. But this rich and glamorous diva is not actually the voice of the book.
Instead, we hear from the person behind Crystal, provocative queer journalist Tom Rasmussen, who writes in “17th April / le 17 avril”: “There’s a complicated question about selling your trauma to pay your rent but, since I can’t afford therapy, perhaps that’ll be helpful anyway.”
In the Prologue, the non-binary gendered author explains that by sharing the traumatic and “shameful” aspects of their life they can learn to live life to the fullest: “…the antidote to this shame is not pride, or honour, or even celebration. That comes later. The antidote to shame is honesty. Stark, crass, funny, powerful honesty.”
It’s for this reason that Rasmussen has always kept a diary, in early incarnations addressing each entry as “Dear World!” This year-in-the-life is older and wiser, and still “literally addressing the whole world”.
Outrageously scatological, bacchanalian, and foul-mouthed, the diary begins with a sentence about being “wet with my own cum”. And yet — amazingly — it is precisely this radical honesty that means the book is never disgusting, or repulsive; far from it. It is all done in the spirit of kindness and a real desire to challenge the parameters we put up around us in “polite” society, especially in regards to the limits we put on ourselves in terms of gender expression.
In addition to the bohemian, anal sex-filled life recounted across the pages, Rasmussen’s voice as a writer is poetic, idiosyncratic, and unbelievably funny, whether lovingly ripping into their friends, or themselves: “…all I could do was cement my position as the evening’s entertainment by rolling out much-censored stories of drag, which would be met with gasps and ‘fascinating!’ or ‘what a fabulous friend you have, Cora!’, said as though they’d found a rare jewel and stepped in dog shit at the same time.”
Through layers and layers of irony and multiple genders, Rasmussen has also developed their own queer language, constantly referring to things as “team” and “iconic”, spouting advice such as “extravagance is next to godliness”, or calling Santander “the nichest of banks”.
There are, also, eye-wateringly pithy remarks about the horrors of capitalism and heteronormativity, and how they have affected Rasmussen their whole life: “I walked home, weeping, in the burning sun, and all I could think about was the butterflies, and how damaged they’d been against their consent.”
Although Rasmussen’s work has already been featured in the Independent, The Gay Times and Vice, this “diary” is a fierce debut. It is astonishing to be releasing a professionally published memoir while you’re still in your twenties, but this diary is so rich in stories, so challenging, and so funny, it would be a crime not to let the world read this.
In Rasmussen’s own words, their diary is all about: “a fat, femme, non-binary, queer, working-class drag queen — along with some of the most beautiful, radical, love-filled siblings on the planet.”
Diary of a Drag Queen is published by Ebury Press (RRP £14.99).