I’m kind of new to the whole drag thing. Call me a conservative if you want, but it took a while for me to wrap my head around the concept. I couldn’t understand why men would want to turn themselves into women, often so effectively that you can’t tell they are men until you hear them speak in their own voice. It’s uncanny!
Something that Samm said to me when she first introduced me to Ru Paul’s Drag Race has stuck with me, and helped me to understand the concept. If you look at drag as a celebration of womanhood it takes on a new meaning.
It becomes about men who recognize that women and the things a lot of women love – dancing, music, singing, clothing, makeup, beauty, things that sparkle, you name it – are wonderful. In many ways they celebrate femininity in a way that most women don’t! Kind of ironic, isn’t it?
I’ve been to a couple drag events now, the Divas of Drag performance at the House of Blues being the most recent. I’ve learned to appreciate the work these men put into their craft. It really is astonishing, and I have to remind myself from time to time that these women are actually men! The ingenuity and creativity that went into some of the acts really impressed me. From costume changes mid-act to the messages conveyed by their songs and outfits, I can see why Samm enjoys this so much. The acts I enjoyed the most had an underlying message of acceptance. Knowing yourself, appreciating your value for who and what you are, and not caring what naysayers think is an inherent part of drag, and I think it’s something that many people from many different walks of life can relate to.
From my once again rather conservative point of view, I have only one criticism for this and other drag performances I have seen. If the best parts of drag highlight beauty and acceptance, the flip side of that is the more vulgar aspects of drag. When the performer is constantly dropping the F bomb and making obscene gestures, I think it is counterproductive. When you watch Ru Paul’s Drag Race, you won’t see any of that. I realize that it is probably largely edited out, but when you watch RPDR, drag really is about the personal identity of the competitors, and how they came to accept and create it. When you see a live performance, in all but the best acts this falls away and gets buried under a whole lot of sexual content and innuendo.
I wonder if a drag performance that voided all the sexual references would fail, or if it would flourish. Is it such a part of the drag culture that the performance would fall flat, or is it a crutch that drag can do without? Until I see a performance that tries it I can’t answer that, but I would like to think that people’s appreciation of the creativity and expression of self that is inherent to drag would increase, and drag as a whole would find greater acceptance.