The lovely thing about drag is that every time you get dressed up it is a celebration.
Drag is a bold claiming of some kind of transformation, a considered and stylized mask that reveals. Drag is always about “fuck you,” always in your face, and always joyous, even when you own the sad or absurd clown.
Stylish women know that the right outfit can make a statement without words. They announce their presence with authority, demanding that people look at them and have a response to their clothes. The reaction may include analysis and critique from other artists, but it always, always includes a strong emotional response, a dramatic invocation.
To claim drag we claim attention. We claim the power to change the tone of a room by our very presence, claim the spotlight to illuminate the rest of our performance.
For most people, the goal of clothing is practical, to cover the body and to cover what we don’t want exposed. We dress to fit in with our peers, limiting our unique expression and attempting to minimize any sense of artifice. We dress to mumble who we are, not to shout it.
Drag doesn’t focus on appropriate, it centres on claiming. Drag celebrates difference, energy, style and life.
And I miss it. I miss having a venue where standing out is celebrated. Drag, over the last decade, has become an offshoot of celebrity culture, where cheap drama and flamboyant fashion have become the stuff of tabloids. We are encouraged not to make our own celebration but instead judge the actions of others, following their torrid, tawdry and sensational choices as a cheap substitute for own life.
We have moved away from handmade, unique and transcendent to stock, thin and only shocking. Instead of being something we participate in, drag has become something we only observe, searching for flawless and not for feature. It is part of the commoditization of fashion, moving from dressmakers to malls stuffed with clothing sewn by sweat shop workers in other countries.
I miss the power of celebration in my life. There just aren’t enough parties, salons, soirees and gatherings where people come to be fascinating and to be fascinated. Trans expression, when reduced to walking through a WalMart, changes from cherished, respected and precious to clownish, boring and weird.
You are special, Mister Fred Rogers used to tell us. Finding a place where you can show that specialness on the outside, can have it seen, valued and respected as an artistic invocation of your own bold, unique and queer nature was important to me. For me, that happened when we came together to celebrate bold expressions of difference.
I have seen much push in the interlocking communities around trans to homogenize and separate identities. This is the natural outgrowth of Trans 101, the standardizing attempt to categorize and divide expression into silos, deciding which are sanctified and which are not to be respected because they don’t toe the line of orthodoxy.
So much of a trans life is about what you have to make invisible to stay stable in the world that moments where you can celebrate your nature by making it so visible it screams can keep us sane, healthy and creative. Affirming how we stand out, not just how we fit in, letting our queer flag fly, lets our soul dance and our possibilities breathe life back into us.
We want to fit in, yes, want to be a normie, want to be valued for what lies inside rather than how our outside is different and a bit strange. To do that, though, we have to have some way to reveal the contents of our heart in the world, to show why nurturing what makes us unique offers benefits to those around us. We need to make it clear that continuous common humanity isn’t on the surface, it is in the way our souls share truth.
I feel the need to celebrate life, not just to bull through it. For my people — and you can see them as women, as trans or as clergy — dressing up special to reveal style and symbol has always been a part of that.
Getting pulled back into the mundane and required just closes me down rather than moving me forward. I find it hard to build up the internal pressure needed to support transformation when I keep having to dump it off to satisfy the small expectations of those around me.
Bold, brave, and beautiful, beyond convention, queerly different. Drag is a celebration where you claim your own beauty, invoking glamour in the world.
And I miss it.