So, you want to know something that’s been eating me alive for the past week or so?
I have a lot of very close friends in the transgender community. Like, A LOT of very close friends. They made up some of my most trusted confidants in college, one of them is an amazing teacher/writer, and I still try to keep them close even after graduation made us part ways. I would break myself to do anything for them if they asked me personally.
I also have close ties with the drag scene. I got started in early college doing drag for charity for the American Cancer Society (you speak to a two-time Mz. Relay winner, for the record). It then carried over into a later college acting career where my role in the dinner theatre mystery Murder at Rutherford House as the bubbly maidservant Ruby Pinkbottom was widely regarded as my best work ever. It allowed me to acknowledge the fluidity of my identity as well as a repressed feminine side of myself that, if I can be honest with you all, I feel I’ve been neglecting the last few years and really want to get back into the show.
So, considering my undying affection for these two factions of people, you can imagine how hurt I was to be told that drag shows hurt trans-visibility by delegitimizing transgender issues.
I won’t lie; when I first heard that, I had an existential crisis. I broke down crying because I cared so much about both of these aspects of myself that seemed to be at odds with each other in the eyes of those I cared for.
But, after a few days of rest and a daily regiment of herbal stress relievers and vitamin D supplements, I was able to sort out the information and I think (keyword: THINK) I understand where the confusion lies.
On a quick glance, I will grant you that the average drag show does look like a bunch of straight cis-gender dudes imitating and, by extension, mocking the trans community to someone viewing the action with no context. But thinking like this disregards the hefty number of transgender women that comprise a large section of the drag community. To demonize drag in this way is to throw many of the very same transgender folks you’re defending under the bus.
And even if there were absolutely no overlap between drag and trans, you still have to consider the number of non-binary and gender fluid people that use drag as a means of truly free self-expression – non-binary performers like the incomparable Jinkx Monsoon and gender fluid people like, you know, ME.
Drag should always be about inclusiveness regardless of how you identify yourself. To me at least, it’s about separating femininity/masculinity from gender identity and viewing it as something wholly beautiful and even artistic. That’s why there’s a big hullabaloo about whether or not cis-gender women should be allowed to perform in drag shows (I’m personally for it, even though I feel it’s a bit redundant).
And before anyone says anything, yes; I’m well aware that the queen of queens RuPaul said some rather dishearting things about transgender people claiming that the only thing that separates them from drag is, “about twenty-five thousand dollars and a good surgeon,” – a statement that totally insults the trans folks that can’t afford hormone replacement and gender reassignment surgery. But let’s be brutally honest with ourselves here; Ru is NOT a good role model for either community. She’s a shock jock that says horrible things and throws shade at everyone because she knows it will keep her in the spotlight for a little while longer and stave off the effects of being an outdated antique in the drag world. You hear me, Ru – you are the Daniel ‘Keemstar’ Keem of drag queens and you’re making the rest of us look bad by association.
So, in closing, no – drag is not, nor was it ever meant to be, a slanderous statement against trans-people and if something should happen in the future to change its meaning for the worse, I will burn my dresses, throw away my makeup, and flush my nail polish down the drain never to return. Until then, let us all take pride – not in who we are – but in who our brothers and sisters are. For we are all works of art that we have spent years crafting through the torturous trials that life uses to impede the creation of our magnum masterpiece and we need to take the time to appreciate each other’s amazing artistry.
Be proud, be fabulous, and #GodBlessTheFreaks.