Sex is sex regardless of your sex, members of a MultiCultural Center discussion panel said.

A panel of drag queens and kings and UCSB professors met at the MultiCultural Center Theater on Thursday night to discuss such issues as self-identity, self-expression and public image. The panel, titled “Absolutely Fabulous: Race, Gender, Class and Drag King and Queen Culture,” was sponsored by the MCC, Sociology Dept., Women’s Center, Women’s Studies Program, Queer Student Union and the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. The MCC Theater was filled almost to capacity when the panel began its question-and-answer session.

Sociology Professor Verta Taylor; Women’s Studies Professor Leila Rupp; former UCSB student and drag king Max Madrigal; member of the local performance group Disposable Boy Toys and current UCSB student Eve Shapiro; and other members of the panel began their discussion with the conflict between self-identity and public image when dressing in drag.

Most of the panelists agreed that when dressed as drag queens or kings they attract public attention, but retain their anonymity if dressed in regular clothing. Kylie Jean Lucille, a drag queen on the panel, said dressing in drag is a form of empowerment, because subjecting oneself to public scrutiny is a good test of one’s self-identity and sexuality.

“You cannot test people, but test yourself and how strongly you feel about yourself and what you’re doing,” drag queen Gugi Gomez said.

Sushi, another drag queen on the panel, said she believed issues of gender, sexuality and terminology should not be taken so seriously. People either have a sexual preference for men or women, and that is as distinctive as sexual terms should get, she said.

“You suck cocks or you lick pussy,” Sushi said. “Who cares? We’re all the same.”

People should not be so afraid of words or so careful in their terminology, Sushi said. Raised in the small town of Kaiser, Ore., she was often spit on and pushed around as a high school drag queen. As a Japanese American, Sushi said she used to cry when called “gook” or “jap.” But a word is just a word, she said.

Gugi said she, Sushi and Kylie use words such as “spic,” “nigger,” “faggot” and “dyke” not to express hate, but instead as ways to strengthen each other. That way, she said, when someone on the street calls out in an attempt to be offensive, the drag queens are prepared to handle the criticism in a humorous and lighthearted fashion.

Drag kings Max and Eve, who were less flamboyant than their fellow panelists, said the negative reaction they commonly receive from the public is different from the drag queens, who are occasionally accepted as humorous entertainment. Gugi said drag kings are a relatively new phenomenon, and anything new always causes some form of extreme and negative reaction from society.

When one audience member asked why straight men occasionally react to drag queens with positive enthusiasm, Sushi said men cheer on drag queens because they want straight women to act and dress in the same sexual and flamboyant manner as drag queens do.

“Basically, it’s not about being a man in a dress,” Gugi said. “It’s about femininity. Femininity is not gender-related.”

Though all panelists dressed in drag as a form of self-expression, they agreed that each had his or her own reasons for doing so. Kylie said the panelists are not trying to communicate a particular message to their audience – instead, they simply urge people to think.

Max said an audience at a drag king show should leave the event thinking about their own sexuality, society and desires. Eve said queer audience members should explore current issues such as war and politics, while straight audience members should contemplate gender and sexuality.

Junior law & society and women’s studies major Nadia Mu