Friday, April 6, 2018

DRAG, the Series: Human

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 ...

The essence of the art form is compassion.

Stories - both the wit onstage, and the realities of the performers: we all know these glorious manifestations were born of pain. Even the most loved and supported queens, who have enjoyed acceptance from their friends and/or families (genetic or adopted, by whatever means) performing right now are up against the WORLD of those who do not. And acceptance by those nearest and dearest is hardly guaranteed. Probably not a queen standing has not endured humiliation, doubts cast upon them, and discrimination - never even to mention the scrutiny of strangers who consider they have a right to particular knowledge of the most intimate aspects of their lives and even bodies. And yet, these people devote themselves to the art and entertainment they provide. This is not a minor risk ... even as many queens say their drag is their armor, the main reason it can be such is that they are forced to *need* armor at all ...

Drag Race capitalizes on turning self-expression into a competition - and then overturns all narratives about "winning" as Miss Congeniality and runners-up become superstars on tides of fan support ... or queens walk off voluntarily, messianic (no, seriously) figures simultaneously rejecting the crown and glorifying it, simultaneously gaming and messy, and - well - Miss Congeniality incarnate. The show has exemplified reality television's outcomes, where "winning" ends up meaningless - and might almost ruin the game, for some.

We all contain multitudes. Some of us may be less aware of that most of the time, and some may play it up more consciously, but few of us are glam queens 100% of the time any more than we're litter-cleaning schlubs 100% of the time.

Third genders

What is "authentic" anyway?

One of the major focal points of drag is the synthetic ideals we've applied to the idea of "femininity" - and thereby, obliquely, pointing to the synthetic nature of the masculine, and of binary sexuality and humanity. Drag queens rarely dress like (everyday, cis) women. I am in lug-heeled boots, jeans, and a chunky sweater as I write this - and, on average, a drag queen is not to be caught dead in the attire that outfits most "women" throughout our lives. A queen is OTT, pointed (ahem), fabulous. If a drag queen is a showgirl, the point is the showing-girliness. If the spotlight is on, it's not going to shine without some glitter.

Pigments are often seen as the root of complex symbolic behavior. Think of the way we use color on clothes, flags, and tattoos—all signals of social identity.

This series of posts has discussed the depths of social, cultural, *human* behavior in a lot of depth, and I've linked the dickens out of things which point to the fact that "human" does not strictly mean man-woman/nuclear family/hetero/binary/cis etc.

If "we" are hundreds of thousands of years old, and even before anatomically modern humanity we engaged in recognizeably human society and culture, how is it even possible to presume what any one of us thinks we know is any form of bedrock truth? If we were built to be, and survive only because we are, flexible and adaptable, why are there people who think their is safety lies in rigidity, in immutable definition and narrow parameters?

Why are people afraid of drag queens?

As natural as it is to be adaptable, it is also natural and human to harbor fear - and the original interpersonal fear, the greatest fear outside of fire and flood and hungry, toothy predators: is The Other. The person we do not know.

The person we do not understand.

As human as it is to self-decorate and put on uncomfortable shoes or shocking color: it is just as human to fear drawing attention, to fear those who brave it, and to fear behavior we cannot understand because we cannot bring ourselves to it at all.

Human innovation, our ingenuity itself, is born of fear and need. The need to eat and self-protect created community and the cultures we built to sustain the human herds within which we found it safest to function.

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