Victoria Bucholtz, drag queen. Illustration: Sam Hester

Victoria Bucholtz: Creating a safe space for queerness

A drag queen’s quest for equity — one show at a time.

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To close out 2020, we're bringing you 20 stories from an extraordinary year. Doctors. Teachers. Entrepreneurs. Activists. These are the stories of ordinary Albertans who were changed by circumstances beyond their control—and what they did to make their worlds, and ours, a little better.



The drag community has a history of persevering through tough times, and 2020 brought unique challenges. But despite public-health restrictions, drag performers are still bringing their magic to the public.

For Calgary-based Victoria Bucholtz—also known as Karla Marx—the show has to go on, even when it looks a bit different. A drag queen, history professor, and trans activist, 37-year-old Bucholtz runs Calgary Cabaret with her partner, Bitch Sassidy.

When the March lockdown hit, the team changed gears and put together 20 weeks of online shows, which offered surprisingly creative elements from camera angles to props. “It was artistically fulfilling but ultimately there was a hole—there was something missing,” she said.

She missed the roar of the crowd.

“It really feels great when you put yourself out there as a performing artist onstage and you hear a room of 50 people go wild for you,” she said.

Her worry would be allayed if all levels of government gave more support for businesses and artists.

The applause is certainly a well-deserved appreciation, but it’s also about the connection between artists and the communities they serve.

“It’s something that I think none of us will take for granted again.”

While the gorgeous outfits, gravity-defying moves, and skillful make-up enchant the crowd, Bucholtz—who also performs with Calgary’s Haus of Trash—emphasizes that these shows “bring people together and create a communal space,” which is even more critical for queer folks, who have few safe gathering spaces.

True to her stage name, Bucholtz is always thinking about the collective good. She worries about the small businesses that support drag and burlesque—already running slim margins, they’re crucial to the LGBTQ2S+ and arts communities.

She worries about performers. Drag can be absurdly expensive, and Bucholtz reminds fans to tip performers well, even for online shows. She’d also love people to forgo their twentieth viewing of The Nutcracker, and fund some edgier independent art.

But her worry would be allayed if all levels of government gave more support for businesses and artists.

Universal basic income is a no brainer.

Victoria Bucholtz

When asked what measure she’d most like to see, her response (after “COVID vaccine”) was unequivocal: “Universal basic income is a no brainer.”

Bucholtz is furthering conversations around equity, intersectionality, and queerness through the Queer Education Foundation, a brainchild of the lockdown.

She’s obviously busy with big ideas, performances, and projects, but relationships are at the heart of it all.

“The people who support you in your life are so valuable and important,” she said. “For me that starts with my partner and then also with the love and support of the queer community.”

Brianna Sharpe is a freelance journalist who covers LGBTQ2S+ issues, politics, parenting, and more. She lives on a mini-acreage in the Alberta foothills with her family.

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