Originally from Portland, Jerick Hoffer, 28, began performing in drag as a teen. Hoffer moved to Seattle in 2006 to study at Cornish College of the Arts and went on to play several roles on stage in Seattle, including Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Moore. In 2013, Hoffer’s drag persona Jinkx Monsoon won the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Currently, Jinkx Monsoon is touring with her one-act cabaret The Vaudevillians and enjoying the release of two albums, The Inevitable Album and ReAnimated, with a new one in the works (think “rockabilly Seattle grunge” with a Bette Midler influence), and is the subject of the YouTube docuseries Drag Becomes Him. She will appear on stage at the Showbox SODO as part of RuPaul’s Battle of the
Seasons April 19.
Jewish in Seattle: How did you discover your Jewish identity?
Jerick Hoffer: I was raised Catholic, but by the time I was growing up my family had stepped far away from the church. Somewhere in my early teens I found out that I had Jewish heritage on my mother’s side, and because of that there was Jewish heritage all the way down. It was a huge family secret.
How does your Jewish heritage affect your career?
It got boiled down to “Seattle’s premier Jewish narcoleptic drag queen.” Jinkx is a single mom, she’s Jewish, and she’s timeless. I’ve had a lot of different experiences because of this one sound bite. I’ve had Jewish people come up to me, and when I say I was raised Catholic, 9 out of 10 say, “Who cares? We’re just glad to have you on our side!” Religion is a topic a lot of drag queens don’t bring up. There’s never been sort of an agnostic, atheist, or Jewish drag persona that talks openly about what religion means to them. It never got brought into question, and it was never too big of a thing. Then once I said it on national television, it was like, bam.
Are there many Jewish drag queens out there?
I really don’t know what it’s all about, but there are not a lot of Jewish drag queens. A long time ago I met a Jewish drag queen who was much older than me. Her name was Gefilte Fish, and she was a pageant representative from the New York pageant scene. But I’ve met a ton of Jewish queer people who feel glossed over in the queer community in comparison to other subcultures.
Explain where you stand on gender.
I refer to myself as nongender, or “I’m of the gentler third sex,” but the quicker way to say it is I don’t believe in the gender binary. In my community, I feel safe anywhere in the world in the parameters of my community. But I’m in airports constantly, and airports are the most gender-phobic places in the world. It’s this crossroads with all these different people of different places. Everyone is in the worst mood. And if you put gender ignorance on top of that, it’s so much worse. We live in a culture that is obsessed with binaries. You’re either liberal or conservative; you’re either man or woman. Everything is chopped up into two. As exciting as it is to live in an era to express however I feel, it’s a topic being talked about by only a handful of us. The education factor is limited because we’re all learning through entertainment; we’re not learning about it as a cultural norm. The momentum we gain has to be backed up with commitment, not just “watch one episode of I am Cait, and then you know everything about trans people.” When people come to see me live, I try to talk about issues that are important to me.
What’s one thing you want people to know about you?
I just want people to continue to realize that drag queens work really hard at what we do — at least the good ones. Even though it looks like partying and carrying on and being a clown, a lot of us put a hell of a lot of work into it.