One Trans Woman’s Perspective on Drag
So…I live in an area of Australia once described to me by a gay friend and long-time resident as a “gay ghetto”. He was referring to the fact that our suburb (throughout the 70s & 80s) was a VERY rough neighbourhood into which gay men (mostly), but also lesbians & trans people moved to escape persecution elsewhere. The people in this area were poor and had bigger things to worry about than if their neighbour was gay. I mean who gives a fuck, right – the other neighbour is a drug addicted pimp with links to organised crime!
Over time, the sense of community in LGBTI+ people encouraged so more and more LGBTI+ people to moved into the area and, over time, the neighbourhood changed from a rough, scary place to one of the most inclusive, beautiful places on Earth (well that’s my opinion).
Yes, I get that this was perhaps gentrification of one marginalised group by another, however, our area is still such a mix of gay, straight, rich, poor, euro, asian, indigenous, immigrant and not I feel this process has not been a negative one.
It was into this neighbourhood that myself and my partner moved in 99/2000. We have never left.
Part of the gay culture in our area (I can call it “our” after 20 year I think) has always been drag shows.
Drag shows have been a part of the Sydney gay scene since there was one. The most famous period is still probably the 70s & 80s when Carlotta was twirling out on stage in a feather boa.
Drag and drag culture has influenced LGBTI+ culture worldwide and we have to keep remembering that for YEARS trans women who were not accepted almost ANYWHERE were welcomed and celebrated presenting as who they were on the stage of their local drag show.
Drag has allowed thousands of our trans sisters (& brothers) to be themselves for fleeting hours and though this learn how to accept themselves. And for many, this happened long before many of us had learned what gender was. Long before many of us had learned to crawl.
Many drag performers leverage their link to LGBTI+ culture to make crass jokes & some of these affect trans women negatively – and while this is not cool, I think trans people generally need to try to keep in mind the past and how the world we are slowly educating has changed already. We need to have to look back, take a look at what drag and drag culture has given us as trans people – without drag, without that embryonic phase of self-exploration for so many of our trans sisters and brothers – the concept of transition would still be be all but unheard of. The idea that a person could present themselves as a gender other than that into which they were born would be anathema in far more places than it is.
Please, particularly my gorgeous, brave, strong trans sisters – don’t take drag as an insult to you, nor your identity. I understand that some drag performers are insenitive and hey – if you’re one of those drag performers, please try to do better – but we as trans people need to also learn to have a thicker skin. Tranny is an ugly word, but my Dad used it used to use it far more to refer to a small transistor radio than to a trans woman.
Words have only the power you give them.
Try to look at drag as a form of performance that has, as part of its history helped SO MANY trans people to escape the shackles of their birth sex and societal gender role and learn to show the world the person they have always been inside.
Drag has also allowed people who have never thought about gender before to see another idea and learn that gender is not fixed by a person’s genitals.
PLEASE understand that drag has been a crucial part of our ability to be accepted as the people we are.
Also…laughter is good. Try not to ever let it hurt you, even if it’s an arsehole laughing.