If there’s one thing I haven’t been able to figure out after many years of trying, it has to be drag queens — or, at least, the contemporary variety.
There! I’ve put the statement out in the open. The thing is, though, that I don’t mean the statement to come across as though I’m passing judgement, for I’m not. It’s more a matter of how I’m always curious about what makes people tick, as well as my admission of how I still fail to comprehend this one.
Then again, I’m one of those guys who had a lot of trouble understanding the reasoning behind reclaiming the word “queer” when it became popular to do so in academia (where I worked) in the early ’90s. I wasn’t sure what to think (or feel) when I discovered that there was such a thing as “Queer Theory.” All I could think of was that it seemed to place, at least in my mind, more emphasis on sexual (dis)orientation than I personally cared to place — not because of discomfort or shame or anything negative like that, but because …well …I’m not sure! On the one hand, just as with the debate to determine if graffiti is art, I wasn’t sure that discussing “camp,” among other subjects of that kind, was a worthy academic pursuit. But on the other hand, I knew there were many rich but untold histories that needed to be narrated in order to generate tolerance, understanding, and ultimately acceptance. But I digress…
From a socio-historical perspective, I recognize the role drag queens played in pushing the envelope in the pre-Stonewall era and in the first years after Stonewall. They were at the forefront of a political battle urging men and women not to be ashamed (“I am what I am, and what I am needs no explaining”). But the drag queens I’ve come to know these days around here are anything but political. Provocative, yes, and often foul-mouthed and apparently in a foul mood. I suppose I’m just not sure what they’re trying to provoke.
Of course, at the opposite end of the spectrum are the denim-and-leather-clad, don’t-mess-with-me uber-men with biceps the size of my chest. I can understand these guys a little bit better; they’re from the school of thought I like to call the “It’s Mister Queer to you, buddy!” However, whether or not they’re more effective politically than the drag queens, or just an alternate photo opp for the media, I don’t know. I truly don’t.
Bottom line, though: I’ll always be among the first in line to defend anyone’s right to be, as long as the cardinal rule of “Do No Harm” is adhered to. And here I mean REAL harm, not perceived harm from those who feel drag queens and uber-men are projecting “the wrong image.” Meanwhile, if I finally grasp why some of today’s drag queens have chosen to become drag queens, I’ll be sure to share my findings with you.