Power by Proxy
Transcending yourself with an alter ego in the spotlight of Copenhagen’s queer community.
Written and photographed for Avalanche Magazine.
Entering the front door, the apartment is dimly lit neon orange and walled with aluminium foil. Industrial tubing hangs from the ceiling as guests dance provocatively, defused by a smoke machine. The back room is themed around 1999’s The Matrix. Drag queens are smoking by glitching computers and soft-porn videos play across multiple screens. I find Proxy in the Kitchen. “Welcome babe! So glad you could make it!”
Tonight, Proxy is almost 8 feet-tall in translucent platform stilettos. Wearing a red vinyl jacket over her sharp frame wrapped in nude latex, she resembles a 90’s supermodel in a horror film, with spooky red contact lenses and vampire fangs. I feel inferior standing opposite her intimidating style but Proxy is as gracious and welcoming as ever, making sure her guests are never without a drink in-hand as they gravitate toward her powerful energy
Underneath her costume is Connor Parks who I barely recognise beneath his alter ego. An internet nerd by day, Proxy is the mask he wears to confront anxiety and the challenges of manhood in the spotlight.
“Proxy came at a time where I had no creative outlet” reveals Connor, who grew up in the United States by his first name Brendan; a weird Goth kid who wore make up and flared jeans. “I was obnoxious looking, aggressive with intent” he admits. Missing a gay or queer scene to associate himself with, Connor entered adulthood carrying internalised homophobia, influenced by his suburban US heteronormative upbringing. Raised alongside a football-jock younger brother, Connor sought connection with creativity, exploring various outlets to channel his visions. Nothing stuck with him long-term. After years working in a shoe shop where he always tried the stilettos, Connor eventually walked them out of the store and did drag for the first time aged twenty-five. “Proxy was a rebellion to myself” confesses Connor , “and I realised that it encompassed a lot of the things I wanted to do creatively”.
"You do it to feel your own power”
When asked what Proxy’s most positive characteristic is, Connor is quick to respond: “She’s not afraid to talk to anybody. I can be super intimidated by people, but as Proxy I don’t give a shit because I have a mask on”. Anxiety is something most people can relate with, and Connor’s case is no anomaly. What is unique about his approach is his commitment to confronting himself and society through an entity that speaks his truth with a powerful voice. “You do it because you want to feel your own power” he explains, “but at the same time walking down the street from one place to the next in the middle of all of that strength and fabulousness, I also feel vulnerable”.
Loneliness is an all-too common experience for queer men living in small cities as they navigate their way cautiously to acceptance. Copenhagen is no exception. Until moving to Denmark, Connor had never been beat-up before, but sexual harassment is not so unfamiliar. Despite the disappointing inevitability of these experiences, his greater frustration is being misunderstood. Standing boyishly in his kitchen in a pair of baggy blue jeans and a black T-shirt, Connor describes being objectified by men who create expectations based on Proxy’s provocative style. Simultaneously, his casual Grindr dates react strongly to learning that he does drag on the weekends. Both circumstances result in disappointment. “There’s nobody who finds Proxy fascinating but who also understands Connor so intimately that they appreciate both... maybe I’m not allowing them to”. Privacy is an important aspect of Connor’s alone time, but intimacy is a word that’s been on his mind a lot. Adored during his impressionable younger years for his angelic features and vulnerability, Connor has matured into confidence with his identity(ies) which is seemingly too powerful for men; “no one is interested in me anymore, I feel like I challenge people too much”.
Miscellaneous is one of Connor’s favourite words. Pacing back and forth between his wardrobe and his bed, he is proud to show me his elaborate collection of personal belongings. Storage bags and boxes concealing years of collecting, because Connor keeps his past close to his identity. Watching him surface jewelry from colour-coordinated boxes, we discover cell-phones, a toy-kitchen sink and a hideous German Shepherd carpet that he wants to hang on the wall. Somewhere between the façade of Proxy and the bluntness of Connor, there is a big heart and a refreshing sense of intelligent humour that has me in stitches.
I like to mix it up; if I’m wearing tits then maybe I like to have a dick”
Proxy’s look stands out in the local drag community. Adding specific detail to every outfit, she hints at the underlying masculinity beneath the gloss. “When you put intention into drag, it ends up being different. I’m doing my most if I’m challenging shape or gender and that can really bring out some questions: I don’t do drag so that I can emulate a woman, I do drag to feel release from the constraints of gender identities”. Spending his weekend evenings dressed as
Proxy for parties and events with other queer friends, Connor feels recognised and appreciated. As the host of a regular Drag Bingo night, a performance artist at cultural events, and a dancer in the band TAN, Proxy is under Copenhagen’s spotlight where she talks confidently about sexuality, identity and anxiety with people who experience mutually therapeutic benefits from her genuine and attentive presence.
“I feel like I’m not doing enough you know?” Connor states breaking a long, comfortable silence. ‘Safe space’ has been a popular term in Copenhagen this year, particularly with the expansion of its techno party scene. DJs, producers and clubs are working toward creating more inclusive and diverse party environments, and being at the centre of Denmark’s (small) queer community, Connor recognises his role. “I wish I was able to do more right now, to be able to create that space and give that comfort because that’s really important to have: it changed my life”. Safety is vital to every queer community, and Connor believes that by continuing to challenge his personal limitations as Proxy, his exposure will educate and gradually normalise queerness. Putting himself first is an important step in that process; “I want to create safe spaces for us; that’s the number one intention. I think that inevitably, existing and trying to do that is challenging and educating other people”.
Lying in his bed, Connor is breathing gently and quietly as he wakes. His pale skin-tone is soft among his white bedding that absorbs warm morning light from the window. Pausing to think about his dreams, he reaches for his journal and tries to write them down before they disappear from his memory. He then goes out for a cigarette. Crouched down on an inflatable plastic cushion, Connor scrolls through @proxy__server ’s Instagram feed. In a moment he will effortlessly throw on a basic red t-shirt, grab his keys, and cycle to work ten minutes before his shift begins.