Unsurprisingly for a veteran drag performer, Crystal Rasmussen knows how to make an entrance. Resplendent in a tiger-print coat, snakeskin boots, and perfectly-coiffed hair and beard, they stepped out in front of the audience while blasting music from their phone - a sharp contrast to the extremely sensible backdrop of The Norrington Room at Blackwell's. Sitting down, Rasmussen smiled, picked up a book from a nearby table and announced "I'm going to be talking about my book, The Hobbit..."
This tongue-in-cheek self-promotion, mixed with a good dose of self-deprecating humour, set the tone for the night. Rasmussen immediately dived into their debut memoir, reading a section on poo stories that had the audience laughing out loud, before leading seamlessly into the real theme of both the book and the evening - that honesty is the antidote to shame.
There are funny moments galore in Diary of a Drag Queen, as Rasmussen tells tales of dating, partying, and an eye-wateringly graphic story taking place in a KFC that I won't spoil here. But the heart of Rasmussen's story - being authentic and honest in a world that viciously discriminates against non-binary people - was always there beneath the toilet humour, and struck a chord with the audience. In their talk, Rasmussen candidly discussed physical attacks, street harassment, and more insidious examples of transphobia, but also pointed out that people shouldn't be patted on the back for mere tolerance - "You don't applaud a fish for swimming, so why applaud someone for being a decent, non-violent human being?"
The talk quickly opened up to audience questions, during which Rasmussen discussed their publishing journey, the catharsis of writing, and - the part which piqued the audience's interest the most - everything they'd had to change in their memoir to avoid libel charges. Rasmussen delved into the details of how they'd had to alter many aspects of their story to stop the people mentioned being recognisable, cutting the first draft of the manuscript almost in half, and changing dates, names and locations to protect the not-so-innocent.
Towards the end of the talk, Rasmussen discussed that they'd written their memoir following a 'money diary' article that had gone viral, leading to an offer from a publisher who quickly withdrew it after reading Rasmussen's pitch (must have been the KFC story!). After shopping the book around for a while, Penguin picked it up, making Rasmussen one of the first non-binary authors published by Penguin. Rasmussen's hopes for Diary of a Drag Queen were that, as well as telling a lot of great anecdotes, it would speak to non-binary and gender non-conforming people, and educate other people. Judging by the enthusiasm and positive vibes from the audience, this aim has certainly been achieved.