Drag icon Bailey J Mills on how daughter inspired her to come out as trans: ‘I want to show her happiness’

Drag icon Bailey J Mills against a pink, blue and white background.

“I just gave her a bottle. Hopefully she’ll be distracted for five minutes,” says Bailey J Mills, settling into the beginning of her interview with PinkNews.

The viral sensation, known for her hilarious British take on drag, which she channels through a stream of absurd TikTok character sketches, is at home, looking after six-month-old daughter Nova. CBeebies is playing in the background.

Bailey has ascended into the upper echelons of British drag stardom in recent years. If you’re a queer person on social media, you’ve probably seen at least one of her sketches – be it the voluptuous version of Scooby Doo lesbian Velma, or the Jane-Norman-coded depiction of Frankie Bridge, which The Saturdays singer herself has watched.

However, today, we’re not talking entirely about the wonderful silliness of drag and humour. Over the summer, Bailey came out as a trans woman. It wasn’t long after her partner, In My Daddy’s Belly author and Glamour magazine’s first trans man cover star, Logan Brown, had given birth to the couple’s daughter Nova.

“I know not everyone is going to accept the changes I want in life,” Bailey wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter, in September, among a flurry of updates about starting to take hormones and get hair removal surgery. “But I’m at peace with that. I’m becoming who I was meant to be.”

Bailey’s decision to come out as a trans woman (she now uses both she/her and they/them pronouns) was one she had agonised over for several years.

You may like to watch

“At points in my life, I’ve sat with my friends and been like: ‘I think I want to transition’,” Bailey recalls. She grew up in Spalding, Lincolnshire, where there are basically “no queer people at all”, and the early reaction from friends was contentious to say the least.

“They were like: ‘Oh, my dad loves trans porn’. I didn’t take offence because I think a lot of my friends – they just didn’t really understand.”

It took until the first COVID-19 lockdown for Bailey, who now lives in Manchester, to begin her gradual journey to transitioning.

Another friend at the time suggested that Bailey didn’t have to “label” their gender identity straight away. “She was like: ‘There’s no rush… you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone’.”

After that conversation, Bailey first adopted they/them pronouns. “I thought, ‘OK, that makes sense’.”

Then, Bailey took the next step, seeking private treatment and attending several meetings with The London Transgender Clinic. Things started to move forward. Then – unplanned – Logan fell pregnant.

Drag star Bailey J Mills and their partner, author Logan Brown.
Bailey J Mills (L) with partner Logan Brown. (Getty/Gareth Catermole)

“When Logan fell pregnant, I was so scared of judgment because I knew it was going to be a big thing,” Bailey admits. She remembers binning most of her old, more-masculine wardrobe, and ordering a “Shein haul” of more-feminine clothes.

Still, she didn’t feel able to take her transition further, despite support from Logan.

“I was like: ‘Not now, it can’t be now’. I didn’t want it to be like, ‘Logan’s pregnant – oh, by the way, Bailey is trans’.

“In my head, I didn’t want people thinking I was attention seeking or trying to take [Logan’s] spotlight when it was a really special moment.”

The months that followed were tough. Logan had begun receiving a torrent of transphobic abuse, late into his pregnancy, while Bailey was still unsure about how to navigate her own journey.

She remembers shaving her hair and exclusively wearing plain tracksuits. “I just wanted to be like a number. I didn’t want to stand out, I didn’t want to wear bright colours. I was so confused.”

When Nova was born in May, everything changed. Bailey realised that in order to confront the mammoth task of parenting their baby, she would have to be at peace with her gender identity.

“She’s going to have a great life no matter what, but I want her to have the best life. To show her happiness, I want to be happy within myself and be authentically myself,” Bailey says.

Now, she is back with The London Transgender Clinic, taking hormones and saving for facial feminisation surgery. 

“I’m so ready to start it and I thought that if I don’t do it now, I feel like I’ll do it when she’s a teenager,” Bailey adds.

Nova will now grow up seeing the true Bailey, her authentic self.

“She won’t be like: ‘Oh, daddy wants to be mummy, or anything like that. I still want to be called dad, because I’m comfortable right now.”

The response to Bailey’s public coming out was astounding. There was hatred, of course, but there were also hundreds of fans and fellow drag stars flocking to share their love.

“I feel really happy and I’m lucky to have Logan to support me on this journey,” she says.

In recent years, the number of trans drag performers has been on the rise, with RuPaul’s Drag Race, in particular, offering a mainstream platform to showcase that trans is who people are, and drag is what they do.

This year alone has seen trans legends including Sasha Colby, Cara Melle, Monica Beverly Hillz and Denim take to the Drag Race stage to show off their talents and tell their stories.

Bailey knows she can continue her drag career as she transitions, but it’s also going to be a complex journey.

“This is the thing,” she says. “I’m kind of having a few complications with it at the minute.”

Bailey’s drag has been many different things over the years, dating back to when she was a teenager in college. Right now, though, she is known for drag that is, as she puts it, “very bloke in a wig”.

Her comedy skits include Sophie, the incompetent hairdressing student, “ugly” singer Janice, and boggle-eyed “no thank you” babe Jessica. Orange fake teeth, crunchy wigs and “10-minute clown make-up” is essential. 

The idea of doing “gorgeous” Rugirl style make-up and being hyper-feminine in drag makes her feel “a little bit uncomfortable”, Bailey admits.

Out of drag, she’s started using her natural hair and applying soft, feminine make-up, but doesn’t feel able yet to wear wigs or extensions, as it “still feels like putting on this character… and, actually, I just wanted to be me”.

It’s something she’s still trying to work out, currently, she has to “split the two” when it comes to doing drag and leaning into her transness.

“I’m still figuring it out myself,” she explains. “It’s hard sometimes, separating the two. I do sometimes struggle separating them but I just see it as I’m playing a character with my drag, the clown. When I’m out of drag, that’s just me.”

Bailey will continue working, creating new skits and performing at drag events across the country. Her debut, headline, sold-out show Unfiltered & Scummy recently landed at London’s Clapham Grand.

There was trepidation at first when it came to being open about her identity with live audiences. She works all across the UK, and some of the venues aren’t queer-specific spaces (“They’re like a Wetherspoons with a drag queen in it,” Bailey says.)

Other venues are cabaret bars, where the staff and clientele are predominantly older gay men, who Bailey was concerned wouldn’t always understand the concept of doing drag and being trans and non-binary

Bailey J Mills on stage.
Bailey J Mills performs her Velma sketch. (Getty/Santiago Felipe)

“I was really scared about some of the gigs I do,” she says. “At the same time, I’m like: ‘F**k it’. Do you know what I mean? Who cares? It’s a gig.

“I think that’s what I was scared of – some of the audiences who come to the gigs being like: ‘Oh, actually, I don’t want to support you any more’. When actually, it wasn’t the case. Everyone has been really nice about it.”

It’s a horrendous time for trans families in the UK right now, as right-wing politicians up their attacks on trans children, and tolerance of trans people decreases. Bailey has “no f**king idea” where all the hatred has come from but she does know how LGBTQ+ people can confront it.

“People are saying: ‘We care about the trans community’, and stuff like that, and posting [on social media]. But actually showing up – that’s stronger than words.”

Attending events such as Manchester’s Sparkle Weekend and London Trans Pride+, going to demonstrations, and being there in person, that’s the way forward, as far as Bailey is concerned.

“It’s about doing rather than saying. Everyone needs to stick together.”

Please login or register to comment on this story.