(Courtesy of Emil Lozada)

‘The Queen vs. Texas’ Revisits the Battle over Lone Star Drag  

Raemonn James, better known as Hermajestie the Hung, teamed up with a filmmaker to tell a moving story of activism and queer culture.


Kit O'Connell is a white person with a broad forehead and large nose and shoulder length, wavy brown hair. They are wearing a green metal wayfarer glasses, blue velvet coat, white button down with red accents and a red scarf wrapped loosely around their neck like a tie.

When the drag queen known as Hermajestie the Hung reached her breaking point, she transformed into the Joker, becoming the scourge of patriarchy, homophobic lawmakers, and anti-transgender bigots everywhere. 

“She’s that queen that’s just had enough,” Hermajestie told the Texas Observer. 

In reality, The Queen vs. Texas—a new short film recently screened at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival in Austin— isn’t exactly a supervillain origin story, but it does depict the transformation Raemonn James, better known as “Hermajestie,” undergoes as she applies her drag makeup to become a queered-up version of that mischievous comic book character. 

She’s dressed up for a performance of Vanguard, the drag troupe she led from 2020 until she left the state in 2023, in the wake of a flood of anti-LGBTQ+ laws passed by the Texas Legislature. In a way, the 15-minute film also depicts James’ Joker-like political transformation, as the former Texas resident realizes how unbearable and unlivable the cultural landscape has become for her, her child, and her partner.  

“The seriousness of not taking anything seriously that is so iconic about the Joker character, that energy resonates with me,” James told us. “Why are we taking these bozos seriously? These politicians, [these] criminals … Why are we taking them seriously? Why are we playing their games? … The character seems to have a very good understanding that the real joke is reality.” 

(The Observer profiled James and the Vanguard drag troupe in the September/October 2023 issue of our magazine.)

Codirectors Emil Lozada and Raemonn James/Hermajestie the Hung (Courtesy of Emil Lozada)

The Queen vs. Texas had its origins when codirector Emil Lozada, who most often creates short films about the environment, became a fan of the weekly drag performances. One night, he and his wife brought along his father and sister, visiting from his birthplace in England.

“Rae actually picked on us because we were sitting up front,” Lozada recalled with a laugh. “She was drilling us with questions, but I think we passed the test!”

That good-natured heckling helped convince him that there was something special about James which he wanted to capture in a documentary. In all, he would spend about five months following James in 2023, documenting several drag performances and following her to three protests against anti-drag bills at the Lege. At one point, James wears a jacket emblazoned with the words “Fuck Fascism” as she chants in the Capitol and marches through the streets of downtown Austin.

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“Violence runs our society and fear of violence, fear of being violated, fear of being stripped away from your family and thrown into forced labor (jail or prison)—it is what it is,” she said. “Just because it’s become normal to us doesn’t mean that we should not be outraged.”

We’re also given an intimate glimpse into the home life James shares with her partner and their child—the family that James ultimately moved out of Texas in order to protect, even though it meant the end of the Vanguard drag troupe (other drag queens now manage a weekly performance night instead).  

“Whenever legislators are writing laws about how they think drag queens should not be around children, it completely ignores the very real fact that some drag queens have children,” James said. “It showcases how stupid they are but also, I guess it showcases how little they know. People who are trying to ban drag shows have never been to a drag show.”

During our interview, Lozada and James both agreed it took months of building trust before she’d allow him to film these very personal scenes of their day-to-day life, which show heartwarming but prosaic scenes of the family relaxing together on a playground, or James’ child playing backstage.

“Just because you’re a very handsome white man with a sexy accent and a camera doesn’t mean that I’m just gonna let you in my bedroom,” James quipped. “He definitely had to earn his way.”

After SXSW, Lozada plans to circulate the film to other festivals in the hopes of ultimately finding a home for it on a streaming service. In an email sent after we spoke, Lozada told me he hopes the film inspires people to support nonprofits that fight against anti-LGBTQ+ laws but also to support their local drag shows too.

“Having spent time behind the scenes and witnessed the immense amount of effort poured into each performance, my love and appreciation for this art form has greatly deepened,” Lozada wrote. “Performance art serves as a pivotal medium for conveying messages of love, justice, and activism, with these performers playing a crucial role in shaping a world where everyone is celebrated for being their authentic selves.”

James added, “In all of my artistic endeavors I aim to inform, empower, and emancipate. This 15-minute documentary short film presents the passions, problems, and power of a local queer community determined to make every space a safe space to exist freely.”

Correction: This article has been updated to correct some details related to the film.