Friday, April 6, 2018

DRAG, the Series: Gender

I have decided to leave this series of posts, intentionally, in a very draft form. This owes to the upheaval of the past month of my personal life, yes ... but it also feels fitting, as the entire point of this discussion of drag is about construction and challenging assumptions. To smooth it all into coherent, long prose might obscure the various parts, and thoughts, I have put into this, and they perhaps should stand out starkly. In honesty, much of what I say is just intros to the links embedded. And so, here is this series. Unfinished. Challenging - to me, in one sense, and to the audience in another. Seems right ...

We're all born naked, and the rest is drag.
--RuPaul Charles



CODED presentation and what that means: masculine marketing - cuck - shaming - feminized restriction

"Feminine" and "masculine" codes and symbology are taught and learned, not genetically determined.

HOW "natural" is binary sexuality ... third gender (only three?) ... why do we punish gender variance and respond to it so viscerally? Why do people care how someone else loves, or uses their body? Why are other bodies' behaviors important to our minds? Why do we refer to nonbinary pronouns, people, behavior as gender TRANSGRESSIVE?

Clearly, the underlying conceptualization of gender implied by these taxonomies is at variance with the idea that physical sex is fixed, marked by genitalia, and binary.

It's hard not to assume, growing up with a given set of assumptions, that these reflect the way the world "is" in some immutable way. But each of us, throughout the millennia of history and prehistory, grew up in a finite time and place - and the slightest observance of the world beyond our lives reveals that even in one given time there is a multiplicity of assumptions, even closer than we often like to imagine. Multiply this multiplicity across time and distance, and the variety of human culture is impossible not to acknowledge. Only the presumption of rock-solid correctness is bewildering, when you really look at humanity.

And so the challenge to heteronormative sexuality and gender should hardly be as surprising as it seems to be, for many people. But our emotional attachment to what we think we know means we cling to it with the strength of fear, or morality; all the things that reassure us deep inside.

My mom, who knows I love drag, and who even helped me to shop for the baby drag queen I used to sell to on eBay a few years back, still recoils at the whole thing. She's of a certain age and background, she's Southern Baptist, she's conservative. She never has had the vitriol for gay men so many like her harbor, but she does prefer not to think about it. Just recently, she was talking about watching Project Runway, and a man was in heels but his outfit was more athletic than stereotypically feminine. I told her, drag these days is less and less about synthesizing the "feminine" than it is about questioning what is stereotypically masculine. Heels aren't meant to evoke a paradigmatic "woman" - they are just to certain men's taste, or they are a question mark of a kind. Challenge.

Drag is no longer all about "female impersonation" if it ever was. Given the recency and locality of strictly heterosexual and binary sexuality and gender notions - given cultures who accept "third" genders and familial relations based on paradigms other than the modern Western nuclear family - heck, even given just the two-generation definition we've narrowed that down to, where even a household of three generations, or offspring living with parents past certain threshholds of adulthood, are looked askance, the het/cis/binary is a correspondingly narrowed view of roles. At a point where many are questioning the validity of 4-person nuclear households, questioning het/cis/binary roles is as natural as living outside them is.

Going along with all this fee-lossy-fizing is the point that "drag" as such is not even strictly a description of a specific form of entertainment. Not all drag is a staged performance. Like any persona in anyone's day-to-day life, drag is for many just their life - see the quote at the top of this post. Just as not all drag queens are cis or gay men, not all drag takes place on a stage, and not all drag is specifically a portrayal of women.

Controversy about RuPaul's statements on trans women.

My own baby queen ... ?

Fat, Femme, and Asian   Feminizing and exoticizing race ... glorification and elevation of the marginalized - even within subcultural/marginalized terms.

Clothing in terms of menswear, women's wear ...

History of female impersonation, passing,
We know that Joane of Arc didn't go in for dresses, but we also know that her practical, spiritual, individual mode of dress and behavior met not only her needs but answered to something much larger than one young woman. It still answers, for many, even centuries after the wars she fought have been, as far as this can be said, resolved. What she was and what she did continues to be meaningful even though she, her armies, and her Dauphin, are all dust. Her transgressions speak to us.

There have always been as many practical reasons to blur, to cross, or to sneak behind constructed boundaries as there are deep-seated objections to conformity.

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