Arts·Canada's a Drag

Edmonton's 'miniature monster' Sapphoria is changing the narrative for trans drag performers

Sapphoria is a middle finger to cisnormative society wrapped in a hairy, glittery little box with a big ol' bow on it.

A middle finger to cisnormative society wrapped in a hairy, glittery little box with a big ol' bow on it

Sapphoria is just one of the many fabulous subjects featured in Canada's a Drag, a docu-series from CBC Arts that showcases drag artists from across the true North strong and fierce. You can watch all three seasons here.​

"It's not a very linear story, unfortunately," Edmonton drag performer Levi Osler says of his personal journey with gender. "It's like — am I a boy? Am I a girl? Am I a boy? Am I a girl? And yeah...I'm a boy."

Unlike the trans narratives Osler feels are often more common, he says he did not know definitively from an early age that he was not cisgender.

"I had no concept that that was even a thing for a long time," he says. "And then when I did, it was very like, 'Well, unless you're 100 percent masculine all the time, you're probably not actually trans and probably just having a phase.'"

Series Producers: Mercedes Grundy and Peter Knegt
Episode Director: Tamarra Canu
Packaging Editor: Kiah Welsh
Titles Designer: Hope Little

But it wasn't a phase — and one of the things that helped Osler negotiate that was Sapphoria, his drag alter ego.

"I was very feminine for a really long time," Osler says. "I worked in the beauty industry [and] I went to aesthetic school. I [had] long, hair pink hair done up every single day. I still liked those things, but it would make me really upset because I was like, 'I like these things but I don't want to be perceived as a woman.' So that was really confusing for me for sure."

"And then once I started doing drag, it was like, 'Oh, here's an outlet for all these things that I like.'"

Although there is often a misperception that drag can only involve "men performing as women and women performing as men," Osler has been putting in work to undo that narrative in the Edmonton LGBTQ community — and it's making a real difference.

"I've had other trans people talk to me and say, 'I didn't know that trans guys could do drag and now I want to do drag!' And it's like, 'Me? I inspire you?'"

Here's hoping folks across Canada gets the liberty of that inspiration now too, Sapphoria. 

Follow Sapphoria on Instagram and meet the other kings, queens and in betweens in the third season of Canada's a Drag, streaming now on CBC Gem.

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which received 2020 Canadian Screen Award nominations. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also a stand-up comedian, the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.