Lately, there has been a storm brewing between the drag community and the trans community. It’s actually been going on for quite some time, but it seems to have intensified recently. And at the risk of sounding like 45, there really are good and bad people on both sides.
For those not exactly clear on the difference between drag and being trans, let me clarify. Drag is when someone dresses up as the opposite sex, usually for purposes of entertainment. Trans people, regardless of how dressed, identify as a gender other than what they were assigned at birth.
When I came out as trans in 1992, finding support was difficult. The World Wide Web wasn’t what it is today. There was no social media to speak of. No online support groups. The word non-binary didn’t exist. Neither did genderqueer or genderfluid. And the world was openly hostile to all of us who dared defy how we were assigned at birth.
I was one of the lucky ones. I found a listing for a trans support group in the Atlanta phone book. I joined and discovered there were a lot of other people like me.
One of my new transgender friends, Monica, came up through the drag scene. She was beautiful and funny and talented and flamboyant as fuck. And I absolutely loved her.
An Orphan Adopted
Monica introduced me to some of her drag queen friends, and the group of them adopted me as their little trans daughter. They became my fairy drag mothers. They taught me how to dress and walk and do makeup, not as a drag queen, but as a real woman. And when I did something overtly masculine, oh how they took me to task.
But even then, I knew that they loved me. And I loved them. Juanita Valdez, one of the characters in my latest thriller, CHASER, was inspired by them.
Although I wasn’t a part of the drag scene myself, I got to see both the beauty of the community as well as its dark underbelly. Drag queens can be cruel and catty, just like cishet people. Some are misogynistic and even transphobic. But the vast majority of drag queens I knew were truly lovely, generous, and caring people.
I don’t watch RuPaul or his show. I know he’s said some hurtful things about trans people and has used some epithets many of us in the trans community consider offensive. That’s on him. Not my circus. Not my monkeys.
But I still have room in my world to embrace people unlike me, including drag queens. To me, drag is a defiance of the gender binary. It can be a celebration and a rebellion and just pure entertainment. It’s campy and crazy and outrageous, and I love it.
Facing My Own Prejudices
One more thing. When Arizona tried to pass its bathroom bill, I attended one of the hearings in the State Capitol Building. Among the other attendees were members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. You’ve probably seen them. They are dressed like nuns, but in crazy, campy makeup.
Wikipedia describes them as “a charity, protest, and street performance organization that uses drag and religious imagery to call attention to sexual intolerance and satirizes issues of gender and morality.”
I used to dislike them because I was afraid that people would see them and think that’s what the trans community was.
But as I got to know some of them, I realized that my judgment was misplaced and I was completely in the wrong. Here they were fighting for my right to use the women’s room. They are badass and bold people and I respect them.
Light in A Darkened World
The world has become crueler over the past few years. The bigots feel emboldened. Violence and bitterness and nationalism is on the rise. And all too often, people we thought were allies cling to bigoted ideas and viewpoints.
But I will still embrace those who embrace the ideals of diversity, compassion, and kindness. Those who celebrate creativity and defy ridiculous gender stereotypes. And so I proudly say the drag community is not my enemy. If a drag queen says or does something hateful, that’s on them. But I will not smear an entire community based on the actions of one bad actor.