While the Daggers headed toward comedy, gender-pushing, and narrative performances featuring the bearded Paradise and her six-foot-tall bearded butch wife Sir Loin Strip Cherry Lix took the Vixens even further towards vintage Vegas showgirl glam. "In San Francisco, you have a lot of men imitating women being showgirls," said Lix. "This was: let's be women being women who like women being showgirls."
Interestingly, Paradise says the lesbian audience hasn't always been the easiest for femme troupes like the Daggers and Vixens. "It's confusing," she said. "They ask, 'Is it feminist? Not feminist? It's hot, titilutf8g, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.'"
On the other hand, gay men have always loved them, especially in the beginning, because those groups and gay men tend to speak the same language of camp.
Gay men are also the primary audience for sfBoylesque, the all-male dance revue founded nearly three years ago. But they weren't an automatically easy audience either. "People have different expectations of men in burlesque," said Barnaby. "The point of reference is Chippendale's ... this perfect, chiseled body. We are absolutely not Chippendale's."
Whereas burlesque has traditionally been a place that empowers women of all body types, Barnaby said his troupe has had to create an audience to expect and accept the same from men. As for the troupe identifying as queer? Barnaby says that's mostly because he likes the inclusiveness of the term.
When it really comes down to it, though, performers like Simone de la Getto, cofounder of all-black burlesque review Harlem Shake and the queer event Cabaret de Nude, thinks the titles are stupid but necessary. "I guess I'm a queer black burlesque performer who's a single mom," she said. "Once we get past all the labels, life will be easier."
Plus, the lines between queer and straight burlesque are becoming ever more blurred, as Getto who joined the burlesque scene as a straight woman and then came out should know.
"People like to see people taking their clothes off. It doesn't matter who you're sleeping with," she said. "That pretty much seals the deal for everyone."