I watched The Prancing Elites Project on Oxygen, a series that looks into the lives of a group of feminine people born male who have come together to create a joyous, inspired dance team.
Set in Mobile, they represent a range of what it means to be feminine hearted and male. Some identify as gay men, some wear makeup all the time, and Tim is clearly the girl, with her long hair and curves.
I don’t like the sloppiness of the terminology and theology in the show. They are shorthanded as a “gay dance team” even though many gay men would find them way too effeminate and flamboyant to identify with and some of the members are clearly trans and not really gay. The ideas are a mess.
I love, however, the emotional exposure of the show. These people live their lives between their dreams of beauty and the obligation to fit in, trying to create lives that celebrate individuality. The experiences they go through and their emotional responses to those moments are pure and genuine, even if shaped by producers, and those feelings resonate with viewers.
The Prancing Elites often face fear and stigma, but by banding together, having each others back and holding their own bubble of energy they attract people who want to support them, people who not only care but who also delight in difference. Bold individuality and bright dancing has always been an American ideal.
I remember being in a shopping centre in San Francisco looking at some queens making a video. “Isn’t freedom great?” I wondered aloud. The man next to me said “Exactly what I was thinking! Go America!” His wife, however, wondered where one of the gals had found her coat.
The pure and simple emotion of a bunch of people claiming their own flamboyance and facing resistance to that makes compelling television, and the range of gay/trans/liminal identities really shows how individual gender expression can be, even in a small group doing the same thing.
I know that my work rarely appears so pure and simple, just appealing to common and powerful emotion. It has been my job for the last thirty years to care about the words and concepts, the terminology and the theology. Someone has to search for language that takes the underlying truths and makes them exposed in a way we can understand and work with them.
To try and layer my thinking over the Prancing Elites, though, would be to block their raw and very human exposition of what it is like to be queer in the world, the challenges and the delights. It would cloud seeing a group of very different people born make come together to revel in what they share and respect what makes them different.
I often wish that the emotion which underlays my writing was exposed and engaged in a pure way. Trying to take away my sharp thought to do that, though, would be as impossible as taking away the Prancing Elites spandex and sequins: it is key to our unique expression in the world.
Theology is fun for me but most people want the sense of transcendent spirit, not sharp thinking about discipline. For them, religion is an experience of connection, not a questioning exploration of dogma, doctrine and belief.
I know that I was sent to the edges, the boundary, of the common world to explore the edges, but most just want a sense of the territory, not a crisp and clear map.
The exuberant journey of the Prancing Elites reveals much continuous common humanity as they do their body centred work in the world. Thank them for sharing their lives as another view of what trans means in the world.
The theological journey I am on also reveals much, at least to me personally. I often wish was with others who had my back, sharing the trip, the joy and the pain that comes from claiming the unique and brilliant jewels deep within us in the world.