In praise of gender warriors
“You’re born naked and the rest is drag.“
My daughter recently asked me if my favorite television star (that would be Mama Ru, of course, the genius who uttered the quote above) was a man who dressed like a woman. I said, “no, honey. RuPaul is a man who dresses like a drag queen. There’s a big difference.”
“What is the difference?” she wondered.
“Well,” I said, “I’m a woman, and you don’t see me wearing six inch platforms, candy-colored couture gowns, and wigs the size of small dogs, do you?” She shook her head. Her mom is so obviously NOT a drag queen! As I’ve mentioned before, my idea of dressing up is slipping on a pair of new Chuck Taylors.
In fact, I present pretty butch for someone who’s a straight married housewife. I don’t want to sleep with Rachel Maddow, but I would love it if she’d take me shopping.
I love that belt.
All this begs the question: do clothes make the wo/man? You know they don’t, and for that we must be grateful to the gender warriors who have made it okay to play dress-up, including folks like Amelia Bloomer and others in American feminism’s first wave.
That’s what civil rights are about, after all: FREEDOM. To live life honestly, with dignity and autonomy, with all the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship. In 21st century America, you might meet women who say they’re not feminists, but you’re not going to find any who think they shouldn’t have the right to vote…or wear pants.
We may be in the fourth or fifth wave of feminism nowadays, but millions still struggle every day against the rigidity of gender conformity. My friend Andrea wrote a very moving account of the crap that she, as a nonconforming trans person, goes through just to use a public toilet. We posted it on the Minnesota NOW blog on Transgender Day of Remembrance, because Andrea has justification for her bathroom anxiety–in 2011, a trans woman in Maryland was nearly beaten to death for attempting to enter the McDonald’s restroom door marked with the stick figure in a skirt. You remember the case because the manager of the restaurant filmed the whole damned thing on his phone.
As Andrea put it, “all this, for a bathroom.”
Gender performance is in the news again today, as Carnival Cruises has just announced that having drag performers IN DRAG on a DRAG-THEMED CRUISE would be a security risk. Because when a guy puts on a dress, al Qaeda wins!
Gender rigidity hurts everyone, on a continuum of hideous violence on one end to incredible annoyance on the other. The sickening queens from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are WERKING to make the world a little safer, and a little saner, for us all.
I hope their fans get their money back.
UPDATED: Carnival came to their senses and reversed the drag ban. Jesus is a biscuit!