I recently hosted a drag pageant. Yes, you read right. Drag Queens.
I was not in drag, but was chosen because of my wit, sparkling presence and of course, availability. Well mostly availability. Ok, only availability. But this got me thinking about this notion and its importance (yes, importance) for our society.
First, to me. So it was Miss Gayla 2012. This organisation is apparently the only one of its kind at a higher learning institution in AFRICA. Yes, I know that “in Africa” is not always that prestigious, especially with regards to LGBTI issues, but this is big.
I was told later that I had done a good job. Now of this I had no doubt. After all, I had been hosting my own show in my head for over two decades. So talking over a mic and making a room full of people feel at ease with my mouth is a talent which I have developed over many years. Wait…
Moving along. I wrote this awesome monologue and it totally flopped. It couldn’t have been me and my post-surgery face (I wore shades all night, so maybe I looked like an asshole) because it looked mostly ok, all things considering. The event starting over an hour late may have contributed to a dour and unresponsive audience. This is a little bit from my opening monologue:
Good evening and welcome ladies and gentlemen.
manly girls and of course, undecided. Or as I call you, the swing vote.
Tonight we have a fabulous evening in which we will use the word fabulous at least 300 times. Fabulous.
For those of you who are not aware, or are visually impaired or just too kind, my face is not what it should be.
I recently had some surgery, but wild horses couldn’t keep me away from hosting duties. And for those of you who came around the back way, we have actual wild horses in the back.
That is not true, but we do have a drag twin artists named Wild Horses which will be your mid-evening entertainment. In other news, just call me Wild Horses.
I’m sorry, but that was hilarious. But someone even shouted “Hou jou bek” (that’s an Afrikaans slang way of saying Shut The Fuck Up) at me.
The ladies were of course exceptional. Working the catwalk in dangerously high heels. I didn’t actually want to speak about the actual pageant. There were no real surprises. It was a fair fight as they stomped it to the end. I did want to think broader. Congratulations again to Katlego Sibeko from Sebego Gold (pictured below) for winning and also to the other contestants.
A quick sidebar, when dressed as women, drag queens are referred to as women.
In terms of that LGBTI acronym, drag queens fall under than banner of trans gendered which is in itself quite peculiar and open to misconstruction. Drag queens are essentially men who dress as women. Men, not necessarily gay men. This often leads to confusion as people assume that all drag queens are gay. Not always a bad thing, but more about that later.
I was forced to face my own prejudices through drag queens and effeminate men. I’ve spoken about this before, but I initially had my own issues and did not like drag queens and overly effeminate men. I thought it was a disgrace and completely unnecessary. It took me some time and insight to point out the stupidity and hypocrisy in my own judgments. I realised soon enough that it, like any other fear, was about me and my own insecurities.
Drag queens are interesting. There’s something about them that I have grown to love and wonder why this phenomenon has not grown more than it has. RuPaul is the obvious example. The Queen, the Mother Drag and the one that first appeared in my consciousness.
Dame Edna Everage is also another that stood out for me, but not as big as RuPaul. Back in South Africa we have Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout.
Tannie Evita makes me particularly proud as this is exactly the potential that this art form possesses. She has risen to prominence as the political critic who uses satire to call out the fools in power, pre and post democracy. I consider myself a B-grade version of her.
Now many people may scoff at it being an art form, because that could negate from it being a way of life to many. I think that that depends on the individual to decide, although this could also lead to subjugation as the majority may feel that this should remain art and kept in the dark clubs where these ladies perform. To me it can be no less than art the way that someone can transform themselves across a gender.
However, this role of drag queens as performers should be utilised more and promoted to a greater extent. These performers could even be seen as (and this may be offensive to some) as the court jesters of society. They can say whatever they want because they usually do it behind an elaborate and dramatic façade and they can use humour to soften the blow (so to speak. I had to throw in a pun somewhere!).
Not many people are willing to be the mirrors to society and these ladies are brave and have the flair to do it.
On a similar lip-synched note, the very antagonistic nature of these ladies is essential if we are ever to move forward as a country and people. One of my mottos is “Top it or Stop it” and this could not be said better with regards to drag queens. Many might say that it’s wrong to throw the fox among the hens, but I’d rather know who the foxes among the hens are! Throw a drag queen into a crowd and watch who the seemingly “cool” people are. Body language changes and people suddenly change colours as they are forced to face how uncomfortable they are. Or they realise that they don’t care. Many men realise that they don’t look half-bad. That one is always awkward when the light bulb goes off [don’t worry boys, it doesn’t mean you’re gay!]
Now I’m also not saying that drag queens should be used as social barometers or as a way to test how homo/transphobic and –prejudiced people are. What I am encouraging is is a sense of pride for everyone, not just the majority. And maybe others will have the moment of realisation that I did.
<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>