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  • Magic Dyke*: Berlin’s FLINTA* strippers


Magic Dyke*: Berlin’s FLINTA* strippers

We chatted to Daddy and Ryder, the folks behind Berlin's hugely popular FLINTA* stripper movement - Magic Dyke*.

Photo: @natgass

Ideas born while intoxicated are usually terrible and better off unrealised. Magic Dyke*, Berlin’s wildly entertaining stripping group by and for FLINTA*, is an exception to that rule. “I was wankered,” explains co-founder and manager Daddy Dyke, known simply as ‘Daddy’. He puts on an inebriated tone, recalling the idea’s conception. “I was like, Magic Dyke – like Magic Mike for lesbians and trans people! It’s going to be so great!”

Masculine Str!pping and dance by queer butches, studs, Bois, mascs and genderfuckers

Daddy and his co-founder, Ryder, met in 2022, while both were searching for a way to break through industry boundaries and perform in ways that better aligned with their identities. “For a long time, I was a feminine stripper, working in this space that’s catering to a heterosexual gaze, because that’s all that’s really available to you when you’re not a cis man,” says Ryder.

Daddy was a drag king who’d used performance to express his gender euphoria, but also felt penned-in. “I felt like a character, instead of being sexy as myself,” he explains. “When we met, Ryder wanted to get out of this box of fem stripping and femininity, and I wanted to break out of this box of drag, and feeling like when I’m performing I have to be a drag king and play a ‘man’ and not just my butch self,” Daddy recounts.

Photo: @maniimasoul

He’d always admired the dancing in Magic Mike, but couldn’t find anyone to help him hone his moves – until meeting Ryder, who’d played a male stripper in a previous show and experimented with masculine makeup. “When a friend introduced me to Daddy and I heard about his dream, I offered to teach him some moves, and we went from there.”

Today, their social media still references that origin story. “Masculine Str!pping and dance by queer butches, studs, Bois, mascs and genderfuckers,” reads their Instagram bio, adding: “cause Mike isn’t that hot anyway”. But the name isn’t just a fun pun. Daddy and Ryder see ‘dyke’ as an umbrella term for all sorts of queer identities and presentations – hence the asterisk.

“A lot of people are, for example, masculine presenting and bisexual or pansexual, or are trans men in trans masc or trans4trans relationships, and they both get called ‘dyke’ on the street, because straight cis bigots don’t know any better. They don’t care about the nuances of these different groups,” Daddy explains. “So this is why it’s Dyke with an asterisk – it’s not just cis lesbian women, it encompasses so much more complexity than that.”

Let the show begin

Since Daddy and Ryder joined forces, Magic Dyke* has shot to local queer fame. After starting with an hour slot at a friend’s open-stage show, the two quickly recruited other performers from the local drag and stripping scenes. Their first few shows sold out in just minutes, with messages coming in complaining of being unable to get tickets.

They soon expanded to a larger venue – a maximum capacity of 450 – and again sold out, this time in a few hours. Again, there were complaints of not being able to get tickets. In May, for the first anniversary of their show, the group sold out the iconic venue SO36, selling 750 tickets in six hours. “When we started, we had a goal to book that venue one day,” Ryder says. Daddy chips in, his delight apparent, that it’s a venue David Bowie once played.

Photo: @maniimasoul

Their now-monthly stripping parties, as well as performances at various festivals and events across Germany, are a safe space for FLINTA folks, operating under strict policies to maintain consent and prevent racism, ableism, and TERF or SWERF ideology from infiltrating the fun. The performances themselves are dynamic and varied, always bringing hotness, humour, and – living up to their name – tongue-in-cheek cultural references.

The group has recreated k.d. lang’s iconic Vanity Fair cover, simulated Twilight-inspired vampire period sex and hosted a show titled ‘MORTAL CVMBAT’. The outfits (while they’re still on) range from a full suit to just a harness. The performers wrestle, kiss, grind on each other and sometimes even slow dance, visibly feeling themselves. And the onlookers are feeling them too – whether they’re being summoned on stage for a lap dance or having drinks spat into their open mouths.

Big, Butch and Beautiful

While it’s obvious that Daddy, Ryder and their audiences are enjoying themselves, there’s also something more profound to the experience. “As a fat performer, I have people come up to me after shows and say that I’ve helped them see that their fat can be hot and sexy.

As a fat performer, I have people come up to me after shows and say that I’ve helped them see that their fat can be hot and sexy.

Which of course it is, a lot of people are into it, it’s just the system that says it’s not,” Daddy explains. Audiences also respond to the way both Daddy and Ryder present trans-masculinity on stage, showing trans, butch and gender non-conforming people embracing their bodies and feeling sexy.

This stands in stark contrast to mainstream portrayals of trans-masculinity, which often involve, as Daddy puts it, “self-loathing and sad hoodies three sizes too big”. Both founders clearly value this range of representation – even when bringing audience members onstage to participate, they try to ensure a variety of bodies and looks are included in their shows –  though Ryder is quick to clarify that it’s not about tokenism. “Everyone we hire has the skill set they need to perform.”

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The two main pillars of our ethos are presenting butchness as hot, and normalising and promoting queer sex work

Also central to their project is the desire to present butchness, and non-cis masculinities in general, as sexy and beautiful. Daddy recounts his struggles growing up and coming out as a butch dyke. “We’re not seen as attractive because cisgender, heterosexual men aren’t attracted to us.We’re presented as ugly, as these aggressive, nasty little pitbulls,” he says. But at Magic Dyke*, butches are sexy.

“The two main pillars of our ethos are presenting butchness as hot, and normalising and promoting queer sex work,” he explains. As many as half their performers are sex workers.

Daddy and Ryder want people, particularly in the queer community, to know that it’s okay to buy sex work and to understand the importance of showing up as allies for sex workers.

Living and making history

While what they’re doing is innovative in many ways, it’s also part of a long tradition of queer and risqué performance and nightlife in Berlin. Dating back as far as the late 19th century, Berlin was a centre for so-called ‘transvestite balls’, where queer, gender non-conforming people would gather to openly crossdress and dance with their partners.

Queer people are also a major part of the history of Berlin’s famous cabaret scene, such as Claire Waldoff, an iconic ‘cabaret queen’ who was openly lesbian and owned a queer hair salon. Magic Dyke* also follows in the footsteps of its cabaret ancestors in combining sex appeal and entertainment with political messages – for example, a recent performance featured a sex worker boy band delivering celebrity-style interviews about sex workers’ rights issues.

Meeting Daddy and Ryder, they’re both totally congruent with their onstage personas. Daddy’s style is classic butch, complete with chains and a white tank top, while Ryder emanates, as Daddy calls it, “non-binary elf boy” with a colourful buzzcut. The duo have a strong friendship and mutual understanding – they often finish each other’s sentences. It’s also clear that both Daddy and Ryder have a real appreciation for Berlin’s queer community.

You can go out every night of the week and find a queer event in this city.

“I’ve been performing recently in a few other cities in Europe, at festivals, and I really realised how lucky, how spoiled we are here with the spaces we get to move through,” Ryder says. “There are so many spaces in terms of nightlife, there’s so many events that are geared towards queers.” Daddy agrees. “You can go out every night of the week and find a queer event in this city. Some places there’s hardly even one a month,” he says. In particular, the pair appreciate the way drag kings are valued in Berlin.

“The drag king scene we have here is really unique. There’s this huge drag king revolution where drag kings are coming really close to being on the same footing as drag queens, and it’s just not like that in other European cities,” Daddy says. Berlin also hosts many stripping and burlesque events in queer spaces, while in many other places they remain taboo or underground. Daddy summarises it: “Queer performance here is just on a whole other level.”

Berlin now and forever

The duo also stress the way the city itself has helped build Magic Dyke*. Both emigrated from elsewhere (Ryder from Los Angeles, Daddy from the UK), and the rise of the group is a big part of their attachment to the city. “Magic Dyke* definitely keeps me here. This is what really made me feel sure that I wanted to stay,” Ryder says. Daddy adds that he was also drawn to remain in Berlin by the comparatively easy process of transitioning here.

While he’s still waiting for a referral letter from a London clinic, he’s already been able to access testosterone and top surgery in Berlin. Much like performance and cabaret, this is a choice which connects him to a long tradition of queer history in Berlin – during the interwar period, trans people traveled from across Europe to access gender-affirming medical care and benefit from its more liberal attitudes towards things like cross dressing.

The community we’re building is so important.

While selling out SO36 was a big achievement, the magical duo are certainly not stopping there. “Our ultimate goal is to open the first strip club in Berlin for lesbians, queer women, non-binary, transgender and intersex people, both as performers and customers. To create a really safe space to promote queer stripping and queer sex work,” Ryder explains.

This concept is also inspired by cinema; from the beginning, Daddy says, he was inspired by documentaries about lesbian strip clubs in the United States. “I thought, ‘I want that here!’” The two are committed to establishing something permanent for this community.

“The community we’re building is so important. And in Berlin, and really lesbian spaces everywhere, a lot of times they’re quite transient, something pops up and then it dies quite quickly,” Ryder says. “So I don’t like the idea of being an institution, because it doesn’t feel very sexy. But we want to be something that people can count on – to be a space that they come back to again and again.”

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