Saturday , 19 August 2017

Opinion: Glasgow Prides War or Isn’t Pride a drag?

Glasgow Pride War“To drag or not to drag; that is the question . . . oops, a moment . . . to black-face or not black-face; that is the question . . . JINGS! . . . what was the question?”

The Swan of Avon would wonder what in hell the problem was. There was no issue for Shakespeare. Boys and young men played female parts at The Globe and elsewhere. That was the law, and no avoiding the wrath of The Lord Chancellor. Where in London could you find a black actor to play Othello anyway?

I speak for no-one except myself, and we need to be clear about one thing, Glasgow’s Free Pride have screwed up fabulously. I’m sorry about that, but I am glad that we can now debate the issue.

I didn’t attend the Pride rally in Edinburgh this year. There were reasons . . . well there was one really good reason. I should explain. I’m a transsexual woman. Last year, I was given a big thumbs up from two blokes – “Great costume!” Oh, crap! Really? And screw you too!

I don’t “pass” all too well. I don’t care. I am me. I am a woman. I have a history. I don’t need male oppression and gender stereotyping when I attend a Pride rally. I was dressed appropriately. I’m tall, a little overweight and I tend to dress M&S classic. It suits me best, and I’m comfortable with the look. I’m sixty two. I wasn’t in a costume. I wasn’t in drag. I get enough crap from troglodytes on public transport and in the street. Don’t need it on a day on which we can celebrate pride in our solidarity.

Did I mention that I’m sixty-two? I did, didn’t I. I am. I am a child of the fifties and sixties. This was the time when a troop of white males dressed themselves in black-face and “blackened” their voices, and were a big hit on the BBC in their preposterous dandy get up.

The world has changed since this kind of thing was okay. “What’s the harm?” “There’s nothing wrong.”  “This is a positive portrayal of black culture.”

Nope! This was racist. This denigrated everyone. It pandered to stereotypes, and it held us all – black and white – in a place that made it harder for us to progress the rights of all of our citizens. The Black and White Minstrels have been consigned to the dustbin of racially abusive television

“But, not drag. That’s just a bit of fun!”

Not for me. Certainly not for me. Drag is part of the apparatus where I am seen as a man in costume.  This crap harms me and contributes in its own small way to a climate in which trans women are targets of ridicule, abuse and violence. Has that got you laughing? Maybe it did!

Drag isn’t funny. Even were I not trans, I would need to fear this because drag denigrates women, drag portrays women as stereotype vamps, and matrons, tarts and pantomime dames. This is just ugly stuff.

It’s a long time since Shakespeare died. The world has changed. Soon enough male to female drag will be seen as a form of violence against women. In the meantime, I have to live with the consequences. Drag is a contribution to the objectification of all woman, and particularly harms transsexual woman in a world hostile to our very existence.

Danny La Rue? Not funny. RuPaul? Not funny and preposterous. Lily Savage? Boring. Dame Edna? Boring and not funny.

Mrs Brown? Would this be as funny if it were a man playing Mr Brown? You think it would? So why the drag?

I do laugh a lot. I love comedy that doesn’t need to pander to what is worst in or culture, that doesn’t resort to racial or cultural or gender stereotypes.

Eddie Izzard? Fine by me. Eddie doesn’t do drag. Eddie is a transvestite, not dressing up as a woman. There really is a world of difference.

You don’t get it? I don’t care. The comments box is below.

About Lesley Stafford

Lesley Stafford
Lesley Stafford was active on issues around the treatment of male to female transsexuals within the NHS, and is co author of a report by the Women Thinking Trans Issues Group. She is a freelance grumpy old woman.

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18 comments

  1. I am going to Pride, dressed in " Drag " cos I am a bloke , who likes to do this, I don't care what others, the PC lobby or public feel , think or anything, I am going to be ME for a day, amongst friends, some who are the same as me some who live that way, I don't care, we should stop analysing things and be ourselves.

  2. I agree with this ladies article as Lesley has got it right a so called female impersonator/drag artist thought it would be funny when I was in a bar in Brighton to make fun of me as an intersexual/ transsexual woman most female impersonators think it's a hoot to put down a trans woman I think this type of performing artist is well out of order and not acceptable in a modern society

  3. 10000000000% correct

  4. So cute, watching our Queer community eat its own.. Who needs religious or heterosexist persecution when we can persecute, shame, and sit in judgement of ourselves?
    Evidently permanent gender transition is a Holy Grail while temporary transition is a travesty? Or is it the performance aspect that disturbs? Is this a desire to pretend there are no elements or aspects of gender dysphoria within the choices of drag performers throughout our history? I'm so relieved to know all the misogyny within the homosexual community will be excised by excluding drag queens! That is such a relief to me as a transgendered feminist man!
    Next queer target lined up yet?

  5. Hmmm? Edna Everage was hilarious. Could a woman get away with her level of innuendo? She was a fully realised character moreso than Danny La Rue or Ru Paul. As for Eddie Izzard, not funny and a little bit angry. Funny isn't the point though is it? Can we not dress up as we wish to? Can we not explore other ways of being? 'Nice costume'…tell them 'actually this is me but thanks'. Maybe you'll have a nice chat, maybe they'll say 'nice outfit' next time, and get on the same page.

  6. Lesley Stafford

    Drag is NOT "temporary gender transition" – anymore than wearing ladies silk knickers while you wank is "temporary gender transition" drag is a bloke in a frock taking the piss. I wouldn't dream of tearing at my community. I don't have a community with guys in drag taking the piss.

  7. You need to get out and see more drag. Try putting Taylor Mac, Dickie Beau, Panti Bliss, Murray Hill, Le Gateau Chololat, Joey Arias… (there are many more I could recommend, but there's a good list to get started on) and enjoy.

  8. I've read a lot about drag history – a history that had and continues to have it's own challenges. In short, back when male homosexuality was illegal. Men who happened to be gay didn't have many places to go to be themselves and be more open. Many gay men found themselves in the Navy, Circus and Theatre where they felt they could be more comfortable about their sexuality and meet likewise men. Some men dressed as women for entertainment back then and it soon trickled out into the mainstream. The drag queens sometimes spoke Polari (a theatre language) that protected them to be more open about their sexuality and protected them against attack. This issue has always been there and the history of drag should not be ignored. The same issues those men experienced back in more darker times are the same issues some of us still experience in the LGBTIQA++ community today. Indeed it's been highlighted in this article.

    This is a good article and puts in another point of view. We all have our opinions and they all differ. But one thing we should be united on is fighting for equality no matter what sexuality and/ or gender we are. Therefore, we shouldn't exclude people from Pride events. We all have issues… a story… a time when we've experienced homophobia/ transphobia. But what should unite us is that we are ALL humans and we deserve respect.

  9. Lesley Stafford

    I'm not closeted, Aron,! I get out all I need. I don't see a community of connection between myself and drag. I view drag as a threat to a wider LGBT community.

    I agree, Dan, we all deserve respect. It's part of why I am opposed to drag. Women are not being respected.

    A historical perspective is all very well, but falls fowl of its own limitations. Dog fighting, and bear bating were perfectly okay as spectator events not so long ago. They still are some places, even in the UK. Our willingness to accept this form of entertainment has altered.

    I watched several "authentic" dramatic performances recently with men/boys in the female roles. I was unimpressed. Historical authenticity will always have servere limitations. What we cannot reproduce is the audience.

    Drag cannot be what it was a generation ago. I expected to find the anti "political correctness" band to show up. It did.

    A generation ago, the denigration of homosexuality was okay. It was accepted. Now it isn't. Political correctness gone made is a phrase I hear so often. It wasn't politically correct to respect the sensitivities of our gay brethren; it was their right to be respected.

  10. Thank you for your reply and I understand the sensitivities of this debate – it certainly has ignited a debate. My point is we have a history of drag in the gay community that was once (and still is in my opinion) used to express personal preferences and sexuality. We are all well within our rights to challenge this but for many of the participants of drag it's their way of expressing their sexuality and creativity. Whether it's on stage as an entertainer and/ or someone who identifies as drag in our community.

    But our own personal beliefs and opinions are over shadowing the fact that we should all be coming together at Pride to fight for equality.

  11. Although the name Dan is very uncommon in Scotland, I (editor of KaleidoScot, who happens to be also Dan) isn't the Dan commenting above. Just posting this to clarify – not passing an opinion. Thanks – Dan Littauer

  12. Lesley Stafford

    Dan, Dan-Dan, Dan, Dan.

    Dan by day and Dan by night
    A double Dan
    Too much Dan,
    Come out, Dan, come into the light.

  13. Your cranium must be prneicttog some very valuable brains.

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  16. Handiwork indeed. Those are some very nice looking hats. I’ll bet there will be some very happy kids in MJ’s class.Weather here in FL should be good this weekend, but it will get cold (40s) at night.Have a great trip!

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