I will start this weeks post by saying that I have so enjoyed being able to explore and appreciate local art of ALL kinds throughout this course. Being able to learn the history of drag and listen to Adora Diamond share her story, reminded me of the importance of appreciating and viewing all art. There are so many creative, powerful, amazing people in our community and I was honoured to be here tonight. I was blown away by some of the things I have learned about drag from the readings this week and how they tied into the contemporary issues we had been learning about in previous classes, or about other art forms – I didn’t realize how competitive drag was/is in the bigger hubs around the world like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Adora was telling us that in Regina, because the scene is so much smaller, it is very supportive and performances are more about sharing your art than competing…although she did say Queens are always trying to “outdo” each other. In the A History of Drag Balls, Houses and the Culture of Voguing by Tim Lawrence it says, “Modern balls, with their judging panels holding up numbered score cards, petty jealousies among lifelong rivals, and partisan crowds booing their favourite low scores, have all the flavour of great sporting events.” (Valenti, p. 6). We spoke last week about the idea of drama for sport or drama games, and this seems like a crossover – there are competitive roots in drag too.
Second, I was shocked to find out that Madonna didn’t invent Voguing! That might seem silly but it tied directly into cultural appropriation and “using” a culture for financial gain only. I was horrified to know that I had grown up accepting that it came from one place, when Queen’s had worked so hard in their scene to grow a movement. “Madonna parachuted into the voguing scene in order to build her single and piece together a cast for the video.” (Lawrence, p. 8). She moved in and because as we have learned, culture does not have to relate to race or location, it can be a constructed culture, she stole the pieces that she thought could be trendy and then left. “Madonna never came back to the Sound Factory after the tour,” says Vasquez. “She was over vogue.” (Lawrence, p. 8).
There were two really important things I got from this article, aside from the history of drag, which I loved reading, was how important allowing people to tell their own story is. We can’t truly appreciate stories until we analyze who is sharing them. Drag queens telling the story of Drag queens is very important – not Madonna, not mainstream cultural guru’s, but the Queen’s who lived the life. Second, was how integral the houses were to the survival of some of their family members. “From the onset, there has been a need for gay people to have a unity. Being a homosexual, a lot of these kids have been ostracized, beat up by their families, thrown out of their homes. It’s no different now than when I was a kid. Some of these kids are homeless and struggling. They don’t know how much talent and ability they have going on. So, if they join a house, they can belong somewhere. They can be part of team.” (Lawrence, p. 9). These youth and people need one another – family isn’t always blood, lots of times it’s chosen. The houses worked as a home away from home and I don’t think I realized their importance.
During the facilitation we had the opportunity to view an episode of Canada’s a Drag and relate it to the article about subversiveness in drag culture, “It Has No Color, It Has No Gender, It’s Gender Bending”: Gender and Sexuality Fluidity and Subversiveness in Drag Performance” by Justine Egner & Patricia Maloney. I chose the video of Sapphoria from Edmonton who was a pre-op trans man performing drag as a woman. It was really interesting to hear his story from a very unique standpoint. During our discussion after having an opportunity to view our chosen video, Jacq asked me if I thought Sapphoria was an example of subversiveness in drag. It was a hard question to answer but I said no. Once learning about Sapphoria I think he was doing drag for the sake of himself only – he was able to explore and celebrate the things he loved about femininity, but then take it all off at the end of the day and be male as he always felt like it was. However, I almost wish I would have answered yes and no. I think in some ways, Sapphoria was trying to subvert systems by stripping on stage and having his pre-op body, that is not the body that people expect when a drag queen takes their clothes off…that being said, I feel that, although he doesn’t feel female, his biological form is still female and feeding into the fetishistic view of the female body. It’s a tricky situation. I don’t know where I stand 100% but I was grateful to explore my thoughts. “Studying drag can present us with a unique perspective because, through examining how gender boundaries are broken, we can examine how drag performers construct gender and sexuality and thus gain a better understanding of not only drag constructions of gender but traditional gender constructions as well.” (Egner et al., p. 877). The more we study about gender, the more we can begin to see that gender is a fluid scale that we may slide along through our lives.
It was very cool to explore the art form of drag this week. Ru Paul said, (and I won’t get started on Ru Paul but if you’re ever interested in my view point…let me know! ) “We are all born naked and the rest is drag”.
Thanks for reading,
“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all.” – Aristotle