Thursday, March 19, 2009

Life's A Drag

I've been thinking about drag a lot lately.

No, not that kind.

Not that drag either.

Yes, that's the one.

Yes, I've recently spent a lot of time ruminating about drag queens. This has mostly been spurred on by the superb reality show RuPaul's Drag Race, which is sort of the drag queen version of America's Next Top Model, but 100x better. (If you haven't seen it, all the episodes are online at the offical site.) While watching, I've come to realize the extent to which I think drag is an important part of gay culture, although I'm still having a hard time articulating why.

I think what I like about drag is that it's still something very "other" for our community. The gay movement is becoming more and more about gaining equal rights and assimilating into society as a whole, and while I think this is an admirable goal, I still like the idea of having something for ourselves. Drag fits that niche for me; it's something fabulous and strange and wonderful that many straight people just don't get. For example, when the drag episode of Project Runway aired last year, my mom expressed her concern at the preview, saying that the queens were "sort of scary." (She ended up enjoying it, though.) I like that notion of maintaining something important to gay history (Legend has it that a drag queen threw the first stone at Stonewall) as we move forward, even if I'm possibly being deliberately separatist from the larger heterosexual community.

Of course, lest I get too weighed down by lofty rhetoric about the virtues of drag, I also have to point out that it's just really fun. There's nothing quite like a really good drag performance; it's hilarious, entertaining, interesting and makes you want to give the performer your money. Plus, drag queens are some of the wittiest folks around. For example, observe this interaction between a Canadian drag queen named Fahren Heit and a patron in the crowd who was wearing a pink plaid shirt:

Fahren: Are you a top or a bottom?
Guy: Um, I can do either.
Fahren: Honey, you don't wear a gay tablecloth to the bar and pretend like you're a top.

All this thinking has led me to consider the obvious question: would I be a good drag queen? I like to think I can be rather wittily caustic when I need to be and I'm pretty good in heels, but that's about where it ends. I don't think I'd make a very attractive queen, and I'd probably want to lip-sync Kate Bush or Adult. or something else entirely drag-inappropriate. (Although when I dance to "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga, it gets pretty draggy.) Plus, when you're a queen, everyone comes after you. Straight society thinks you're crazy and bitchy patrons think you're not doing a good enough job. (I speak as a bitchy patron, although I've never told a queen she wasn't good.) I wouldn't be able to handle the pressure. (However, the Rupaul's Drag Race Drag Name Generator on Facebook told me that if I were to be a queen, my drag name would be Barbara Seville. I like it.)

In conclusion, I encourage you to show your appreciation for your neighborhood drag queen. Shout "WORK!" at her when she does something great. Tell her she looks fabulous. Give her air kisses, and if she's feeling touchy, a light hug. She'll appreciate the attention.


Rachel said...

Fahren was amazing!

Arira said...

I think Miss Nomer would be an amazing drag queen

melissa said...

i love it!!! nice to meet you the other day.