Drag Queens, Drag Kings, Androgynous Drag. There are many types, over the top, female/male impersonation, the works. Drag is an art form, but it can also be abused against the Trans community.
I myself have dragged up on occasion, I enjoy the chance to express other sides of myself I can’t explore on a regular day. I get the chance to show my feminine side and my more androgynous side. For example, a few weeks ago I dragged up as a power puff girl, just over a year ago I also dragged up as a woman, something I found very liberating – even if I still couldn’t stand the tights!
However there is a line that needs to be clear when it comes to dressing in drag. Are you doing it to look like a trans person, or are you doing it to express yourself? Because too often people do the latter, there are costumes out there to ‘look like trans women’, which come equipped with pointy false breasts, bad wigs and short skirts. They are there to make a mockery, they are sold especially around Halloween time and are downright offensive.
In media, this is often hammed up. Drag Race used to do a segment called ‘You’ve got She-mail’. There was a ‘game’ where contestants saw pictures of bodies and had to guess if the person was a drag queen or a cis-woman. The pure premise of this was attrotious. It goes to the idea of trying to ‘work out’ if someone is trans, it puts people down to their genitalia and it was laughed at if you guessed a cis-woman was a drag queen, laughing at the idea that someone couldn’t guess. It was atrocious. The segment was eventually pulled but it is still a major issue, especially since the executive producer of the show that he “love[s] the word tr**y”. I am sorry sir, but that is not your word to love, nor to use full stop. So please kindly shut up.
Even ex-contestants who have later come out as trans women believe the executive producer is very wrong, and it is these voices we should be listening to. If a trans person tells you your outfit is offensive, listen to them. You can engage in a conversation about it, sure. But at the end of the day, if a trans woman says your outfit is offensive, listen to her!
Trans people are some of the most discriminated against populous. In particular, this applies to trans women, more-so trans women of colour. Here in the UK we are very lucky to have laws that protect us, but that doesn’t stop hate. In other places of the world, people are acquitted of murder based on the sole fact that the victim was a trans person. This is awful, I don’t think I need to say that, but the idea that trans people are somehow seen as less of a person because they are trans, because of an element of themselves they can’t change? I have heard of that happening before and it didn’t end well there either. It is 2016 now, you might think things would have changed already.
Drag as a concept is wonderful, but as I said, it must not be abused. Have fun, express yourself, but don’t then use it as a free pass to say transphobic things. I know a drag queen that outed both myself and Tyler when we were at a bar in town once, made a comment about how Tyler was there with ‘her girlfriend, sorry – boyfriend.’ It was mortifying. Tyler is not a ‘her’ and I am certainly not a girlfriend of anyone. The fact that this Drag Queen then thought it was okay for them to say something like that, and laugh about it, was infuriating. There is a worrying trend of Drag Queens in particular believing that because they do drag on a night out or for a job, they are in the trans community. No, if anything you may be allies but for that title you have to work for it! A good ally doesn’t say anything transphobic, in fact they do the opposite and call out people who are transphobic.
Make sure you are critical of your attire. Is it OTT, the idea of hyper masculinity, hyper androgyny or hyper femininity? Large eyebrows, over the top but mostly perfect lipstick? That is what drag is about. Or is it just awfully done make up and bad wigs? Be careful what you are doing, think about who that could impact.
Trans and non-binary people can be drag performers, but drag performers are not by default trans, and even if they are, anything transphobic they say should still be challenged. By being a drag performer you don’t get a free pass to say whatever you’d like.
Thank you to ThinkProgress and EverydayFeminism where I did my research to get additional information for this post. They both write fantastic ideas on their posts about the crossover between trans people and drag.
What are your opinions on drag? Have you ever dragged up? Do you feel you did it in a tasteful way? What do you think of drag as a concept? Let me know in the comments.
Stay tuned to my blog for tomorrows post, E for Education!