Earlier this month, someone posted a comment on The Gabber Newspaper’s Facebook page suggesting the LGBTQ Resource Center’s drag show at the Hickman — and, in fact, all drag — includes strippers. This gentleman offered a wholly misguided, yet understandable, comment. Understandable because some national mainstream media and politicians — who perhaps have an agenda — intentionally misrepresent this historic art form.
Let’s break down the history, shall we?
A legit drag show has zero nudity and zero sexualization. Drag goes back in history to Greek theater — all of Sophocles’ actors in Antigone were men. That means when the character they portrayed was a woman, the actor dressed as a woman. Shakespeare also included drag in his works, and was performed thusly. Drag isn’t a new thing.
Modern drag portrayals include Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, Julie Andrews in Victor Victoria, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, and Nathan Lane in The Birdcage (or Gene Hackman in The Birdcage, for that matter); hell, the Trix Rabbit dressed up like a woman to get cereal. Perhaps someone can watch Dustin Hoffman or Nathan Lane dressed as women and get all hot and bothered, but I’ve yet to meet them.
The list goes on: Milton Berle (1948, Texaco Star Theater), Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, Tom Hanks, Jamie Farr… once you start to think, you realize it’s an accepted part of our culture.
As for “grooming” our children, well, that’s true:
Robin Williams, as Mrs. Doubtfire “groomed” them to expect two parents who love them so much they’d do anything to be with them. Albert Goldman’s character in The Birdcage “groomed” them that parents — even step parents — should love children fiercely. And Tootsie and Victor in their respective films? It “groomed” them to know that when you need to put food on the table, you do what you have to do. As for the Trix Rabbit? Well, you have me there. She did groom children to crave crappy sugary cereal.
And Sophocles and Shakespeare? I can’t speak to what those drag performers groomed kids for in the 5th century BCE and the 16th century, respectively, but I can assure that had my 10th grade language arts teacher brought in a troop that included men in drag to perform The Tragedy of Julius Casear, I wouldn’t have had to do a Google just now to recall the name of Brutus’ wife (Porcia).
Please note that none of those portrayals involved stripping or sex work.
Maybe some of you want to mention Drag Queen story hours. Before you do, tell me: Have you seen those women reading to kids? All they’re “grooming” children to do is read, and perhaps dress like Bea Arthur in Maude.
Finally, if you don’t agree, even before the state passed a law setting age limits on drag shows, the probability of a drag queen breaking into your home to perform for your children was statistically insignificant. And consider this: I’m far more worried about someone opening fire during a Pride event this year than I am a child getting “groomed” for anything.
In reality, neither will likely happen. Maybe it’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and focus on what our government’s doing while we’re busy arguing over drag shows and gun laws.