How’s your inner drag queen?

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April 8, 2010

6:00 PM

Loving the responses I’ve received on my last post. I went out on a limb there, guys, and it seems to have paid off. So glad that you still love me – farts and all.

Now I have another confession to make. Don’t worry, this one’s far less TMI. But here goes: every Tuesday night, my roommate Casey Sears and I put on our pajamas, snuggle up under the covers, and watch “Rupaul’s Drag Race.”

Don’t laugh. This show is incredible! It’s like “Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” meets Project Runway meets the Avon Lady meets haute couture.

Pause while I reread that sentence. Yes, I have officially out-gayed myself.
But seriously, this show is ripe for analysis. Once you get past the banal pleasure of watching a bunch of catty gay men apply makeup and stuff themselves into skin-tight sequined dresses, you realize that the show is pretty dang smart. It takes the standard reality game show formula and turns it on its head, subverting what has now become too familiar by doing everything with a roll of the eye and tongue firmly in cheek. If you’ve ever made it through an entire season of America’s Next Top Model, you’ll see that Rupaul is totally playing up her role as a funhouse mirror version of Tyra Banks, and the drag queen contestants clearly know that sometimes being funny means playing to the camera. The banter comes quick with these queens, and references to pop culture and queer history fly fast and nasty. “Drag Race” is a reality show that makes no attempt at “realness,” but deals with a marginal performance method in a way that takes the eek! out of drag.

That’s what I really love about the show. “Drag Race” showcases gay men working as drag performers in a way that makes the whole thing completely fun and normal and un-scary. The contestants often remind the viewer that, no, we’re not men that want to be women, but rather we’re men that get a kick out of dressing and performing in women’s clothing. Or maybe some of us do want to be women. Or maybe some of us already identify more as women than men and are using drag to express or exaggerate that. Or maybe some of us just enjoy the attention and money we get when we perform. Etc, etc, etc. I think it’s so great that the stuff of headaches for students of Women’s Studies is now handled with humor and honesty. Plus you get to watch talented drag queens toss flaming knives on stage as they lip-synch in 8-inch heels!
So where does this leave me? Well, last Thursday I myself was in a drag performance.

This was the Lips Drag Show – maybe you heard about it? My friend Ferris Wheel and I performed Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” in front of a packed Lodge 1. Well, actually, was it packed? To be honest, I have no idea. My vision may have been a little double at the time… but my point is that there’s drag happening on campus, too!

Pause while Judith Butler devotees clear their throats conspicuously. Yes, gender is a social construct and in theory we’re all performing drag every second of our lives – but this blog is for the laypeople, ok feminists?

Anyway, performing in drag was totally fun! I’ve walked around in heels before. I’ve worn makeup before. But this was the first time I ever did some straight-up rehearsed ladyboy dance moves on stage before an audience. And I’m not saying I was great – Gaga probably would’ve hung her hair-telephone-bedecked head in shame if she saw me stagger my way through her choreography. But the best part was stomping around the Sadler Center in big old go-go boots and a skirt. I felt a certain sway in my step, a certain yeah-I’m-hot-as-shit-come-get-it attitude. There’s a power to drag that you never really know until you try it. It really is like becoming another person, like a stage presence or a character. And it’s a character you use to over amplify gender expectations. Like: women wear makeup, so I’m going to wear TONS of makeup. Women walk in high heels, so I’m going to walk in CRAZY high heels. Women flirt and wink at men, so I’m going to be SUPER SEXY AND SCANDALOUS. I wasn’t Greg then. I was Gaga.

So, thoughts? Anyone out there as obsessed with “Rupaul’s Drag Race” as I am? Anyone else interested in drag? Ever done drag? Seen a drag show? Ever dated a drag performer? Been attracted to one? Hooked up with one? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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