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Regular Contributor Chad Felix Greene
In a world that embraces progressive intersectionality, no one is safe. Even an LGBT icon like RuPaul is vulnerable to the irrational outrage of the social media mob. RuPaul, the cultural definition of ‘Drag Queen’, recently discussed his hit show RuPaul’s Drag Race and its influence on the culture. He described his own ambition and experience being a Black man in America stating, “‘First of all, let’s talk about the black rage.’ So one of the ways that I’ve been able to dilute that perception is to dress as a character that says, ‘Look I’m fun, I can have a sense of humour about life because I’m in drag. I acknowledge black rage, but we’re going to have some fun.’” It is true, RuPaul became a powerful image in film and TV as America watched him in stunned awe, holding back giggles and dancing to his catchy music, and found themselves embracing him as their own.
RuPaul was one of the first gay people I ever saw and I remember how much I loved his sassy persona, exaggerated hair and make-up, and over-the-top old Hollywood style dresses and mannerisms. His catch-phrases, wide eyes and toothy grin broke down more barriers to gay acceptance than all the LGBT legislation and marches combined. People simply loved him for who he was. To this day when people talk about their enjoyment of gay culture they routinely refer to RuPaul as their go-to queen.
But in the last few years, progressivism has caught up with him. Despite redefining what ‘drag’ meant to an entire generation of gay men and introducing gay cultural language into the mainstream lexicon, he is facing the inevitable consequence of the progressive mindset. He is becoming obsolete and quickly sliding into the ‘bigoted conservative’ category everyone will eventually find themselves in with enough time. What offense could have sparked such a backlash that a living icon could become the target of anti-hate outrage and scorn?
Without realizing the impact, when asked how a transgender woman could be a drag queen he stated to the Guardian “Mmmm. It’s an interesting area. Peppermint [an openly transgender pre-operative contestant] didn’t get breast implants until after she left our show; she was identifying as a woman, but she hadn’t really transitioned.” Would he accept a contestant who had? He hesitates again. “Probably not. You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body. It takes on a different thing; it changes the whole concept of what we’re doing. We’ve had some girls who’ve had some injections in the face and maybe a little bit in the butt here and there, but they haven’t transitioned.” When asked if women could also be drag queens he argued, “Drag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it’s not men doing it, because at its core it’s a social statement and a big f-you to male-dominated culture. So for men to do it, it’s really punk rock, because it’s a real rejection of masculinity.”
This admission created a firestorm of accusation that RuPaul was engaging in transphobic discrimination and undermining the ‘inclusion’ of the LGBT community on the show. He issued an apology on Twitter pleading, “Each morning I pray to set aside everything I THINK I know, so I may have an open mind and a new experience. I understand and regret the hurt I have caused. The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement. You are my teachers.” But LGBT fans insisted on remaining angry with him despite the apology, sternly lecturing him on his Twitter feed and in replies to his message. But was his statement really so outrageous?
For a while now, trans activists have insisted on demanding that transwomen are women. They have argued that transwomen were always female, and that physical transition is both medically necessary and irrelevant in defining gender identity. In another Guardian article titled, Who can be a drag queen? RuPaul's trans comments fuel calls for inclusion, the notion of physical characteristics defining gender was deemed ‘harmful’ and a source of the outrage directed against him. But, as has become far too common, their current argument conflicts with their previous and equally passionate arguments.
For starters, drag itself is something that used to be fairly easy to define. Men dressed as women and were known as ‘female impersonators’ and either created the illusion of being a woman or exaggerated female characteristics and mannerisms for the sake of humor. They became ‘drag queens’ indicating the over-the-top flamboyance of the culture. Lesbians have a similar culture in which they dress as men and are called ‘drag kings’ but it tends to lack the same humor and outrageousness that drag fans love. RuPaul describes it as, “We are wearing clothes that are hyperfeminine, that represent our culture’s synthetic idea of femininity.”
By defining clothing, hairstyle, makeup, and mannerisms as ‘hyperfeminine’ or ‘synthetic femininity,’ it requires a recognition that there is a universally understood way in which women in our culture dress, style themselves and behave that is being exaggerated. It is silly to pretend there are no gender norms in clothing and style despite our culture embracing women dressing in traditionally male attire. More importantly, all efforts to argue in favor of transgender children, medical surgery and hormone treatment, bathroom access and name and pronoun usage require this same recognition of clearly defined female and male characteristics.
If it is harmful to argue that physical characteristics define gender identity then how is transgender surgery ‘medically necessary’ and if denied by a doctor, an act of discrimination? Why do LGBT activists demand that without physical transition and acceptance as the other gender, transgender individuals will be driven to suicide? If gender is 100 percent self-perception, then why physically transition at all? Why not remain in your natural body and just identify as the other gender? In truth, there is no rational answer, as the basis of the question is itself irrational. Transgenderism requires clearly defined gender roles and norms in order for the individual to appropriately adopt them in order to validate their sense of gender. The two cannot be separated no matter how much LGBT advocates wish to argue otherwise.
To ask if a transwoman can be a drag queen is to ask if a woman can participate in the culture under the LGBT standards of gender identity. Obviously, if a woman were to ‘go in drag’ she would dress as a man. For a male who insists he is female to enter into a culture and competition that celebrates men dressing as an exaggerated version of women would be to validate the notion transwomen are just men in dresses. The LGBT community is very clearly opposed to such a notion. Professional drag queens go through a great deal of effort to mimic every aspect of female physical beauty through padding to give them shape, extensive makeup, and even facial plastic surgery. The enterprise is so ridiculous it is often a source of on-stage humor. The concept of ‘tucking’ which is simply ensuring no unsightly bulges are apparent in tight-fitting dresses, is constantly used as a running joke.
RuPaul is correct in assessing that the point of drag is men rebelling against society by embracing the extremes of female physical and social attributes and then laughing in everyone’s face thus disarming criticism. It is the polar opposite of what trans activists insist gender means to them and what transition entails. For a transwoman to consider herself a ‘drag queen’ would be to override everything trans activism insists is true about transgenderism or gender identity.
The line drawn here by RuPaul is the physical transition. Many transwomen begin their journey as a drag queen because it offers them the opportunity to dress as a woman in public. Many decide after years of drag they wish to be female and undergo transition. RuPaul does not have a problem with physical males who identify as female participating in the show. His only concern is that if some are taking female hormones or have undergone surgery in a competition that judges one’s ability to mimic the female form artificially, it is an unfair advantage and begins to blur the lines of what the show is really about. It has nothing to do with ‘inclusion’ as biological women also cannot participate for the same reasons and male-impersonators are equally disqualified.
The purpose of the show is to allow gay men who professionally impersonate women to compete on a reality game-show and celebrate drag culture. It is a gay male cultural outlet that does not translate to any other cultural reference. The language, the games, the style, the dress and the drama are exclusively gay male. There is nothing wrong with limiting participation in the show to this specific cultural identity. The seemingly never-ending demand to force all people to participate in all things is destroying cultural identity and the very foundation LGBT advocates for.
I have argued for a long time that gay culture and transgender culture cannot coexist. Gender identity erases sexual orientation and gender non-binary or fluidity erases both. The community is undergoing an identity crisis fueled by victimhood and entitlement and no one is safe from its outrage. As I tweeted to RuPaul in celebration of my own wedding with friends in the conservative movement, which enjoyed a controversy-free experience, the Left has become toxic to the gay individual.
If you value your identity and wish to simply live in peaceful coexistence with a truly diverse group of people, you have to move to the Right. Progressivism will eventually condemn everyone who ever supported its movement as hateful, bigoted, backward conservatives. You might as well enjoy the freedom away from judgment now. RuPaul: You are welcome here and you have a lot of fans, and we won’t make you apologize for being yourself.
For more from Chad, visit chadfelixgreene.com and follow him on Twitter @chadfelixg.