Heroes in heels

Hi,

Earlier in the week I happened to stumble upon the film musical, Everyone’s Talking About Jamie. Some of you may remember the BBC documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen at Sixteen. If you’d like to be reminded of your age, it was easy back in 2011. By all that’s fabulous! I might even have been in my 30s back then. 😉

I don’t remember the documentary that well – I mean, it has been a decade! – but elements of its memory echoed as the musical played out. Incidentally, I happened to catch an interview with an older Jamie on Radio One’s drag podcast a few years back. It was interesting to hear how his life had developed and also, bless him, to hear his embarrassment at the idea of a show being written about it. Jamie is also interviewed on Mermaids’s podcast, She Said They Said.

Now, here’s a thing. There are times when the idea of drag comes up in certain circles. Do I do drag? No, but I have a lot of time for anyone who pushes against the gender binary and tries to be be who they need to be. Yes, some queens are fabulously over the top, outrageous even, but they are people. I would add to that they’ve had to fight prejudice and for acceptance as others in the LGBTQ+ community have as well. As a straight part timer, my privilege is that I can hold hands or hug my dear wife in public – and no-one is campaigning to remove our rights.

I do not think it’s okay for trans folk to be scornful of queens: acceptance is a tide that raises all boats. Plus, as the transgender umbrella embraces and protects so many of us, identities are merging. We’re seeing former drag stars starting to come out to transition or be open as genderfluid. Jamie talks about being non-binary and Shane Jenek (aka Courtney Act) came out as genderfluid. To listen to their stories, the commonality between there’s and mine? Enlightening and humbling – sometimes I think a lot of us humans are more alike than not.

Years ago at a focus group around the needs of folk who commuted using a motorbike or scooter, it was clear there was a wide gap in how the tribes, if you will, within that community behaved. Powerbikers who followed the racing, Northern Soul types, all weather commuters, bikers, and occasional types who sometimes used a car. We all had a very different view of the world and while we didn’t always see eye to eye, we were united on pushing for better road safety, improving bike parking facilities, and suchlike.

What I’m saying is divided we fall. There are many in the world who dislike – if not hate – those who find themselves under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Haters are actively working to push things back to the Bad Old Days. Please, don’t help them. Instead, acknowledge that another LGBTQ person’s views or life might not be yours or mine, but difference is okay. There’s no right way to be, so let’s be accepting, kind, and maybe we’ll learn something new. ❤️

L x

10 Comments

  1. Well, well said, Lynn. Thanks for stating all this. The narrow-minded nastiness and narcissism of not a few in the trans community who try to exclude and condemn drag queens, ‘hairy panty wearers’, ‘shemales’ and sex workers, even straight crossdressers and many more has, at times, made me ashamed of being trans. I embrace anyone who is in any way living their gender truth in the way that suits them, which of course includes all cis people, too. With the pressures we face as a community, you’d have thought that the wider threats to us would be a more important target than minor differences and appellations. Sue x

    1. Thanks Sue. Oddly enough I’ve heard unpleasantness from different areas of the Trans community on this: from part timers, full timers, etc.

      “Oh, but we’re not like them!” certain folk protest…. and yet, the same folk talk about how they are not accepted. Hmm. 🤔

      FWIW, I think I’ve seen about fifteen minutes of Drag Race UK, although I hear it’s very popular. I did watch Drag SOS which was an interesting mix of self help and empowerment through drag performance, for folk caught in a rut. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but the core cast were kind, supportive, and kept that glint in their eye of British humour.

      I may have a look for Jamie’s TEDTalk later.

  2. Was the Jamie documentary that long ago? I watched it again recently and then something else when he was interviewed (and suitably gobsmacked) about it being turned into musical. But if they can do it with Kinky Boots, why not?
    I should admit that OTT/panto style drag isn’t really my thing. I’ve never actually watched Drag Race – though did see Courtenay Act put in a quite creditable appearance (in several senses of that phrase) on Celebrity Mastermind a while ago. But I agree it can be empowering, and there was a nice short film about an older man making his first drag appearance at a club shown late a couple of weeks back as part of Channel 4’s Iris Prize short film season (still available on their website)

    1. I wasn’t sure about how old the documentary was, but it’s mentioned on IMDb (and also on this blog). When a film is made about a person’s life, I wonder how they deal with things not being wholly accurate? Sure, the musical says ‘based on’. I remember Bruce Lee’s daughter talking about how her dad was portrayed in a daydream sequence in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In it, Lee is used as an antagonist in the scene and while none of us are perfect, of that’s not his character – as his daughter points out – to not be portrayed accurately must, well, hurt I guess.

      Style-wise or even as a try-on, I’m with you on not wanting to do the OTT look either. However, it’s performance or statement, I guess, and I still wouldn’t knock anyone for that choice, and certainly not discriminate against a queen who took that route. It’s their body and their choice. I feel to judge them isn’t only against our community interests, but also has a whiff of that look-down-your-nose hierarchy BS / gatekeeping. “Oh, you’re not proper X like us. You only do blah.” F*** that noise 😉

  3. A couple of years ago I was tempted when one of the Oxford theatres billed an upcoming Drag Workshop Weekend event. Which was, of course, scheduled to be held two weeks after the first lockdown was announced. C’est la vie ( although not, as it transpired, en Rose)

  4. Been seeing a bit of this anti-drag sentiment around on some sites I really wouldn’t have expected it over the last few months. It’s always made me a bit uncomfortable, but I couldn’t really put my finger on why – or, rather, I could but couldn’t put that into words. So, this. All of this.

    On a more light-hearted note, I find that drag acts are fascinating for their level of artifice and the effort gone to with make-up and other methods to achieve the look they’re going for. Regardless of my thoughts about choice and unity, that level of dedication and craft is worth admiring as an art-form. I think it was watching Grayson Perry in the ‘All in the Best Possible Taste’ series, in the one on the working class, and realising what he was aiming for when going out with the girls there. I think he even mentions the power of the artifice. It was then, I think, that I ‘got’ the idea that getting ‘glammed up’ was about the person wearing the make-up and not the onlooker in many instances. Art, it would appear, for art’s sake. And I am all for that.

    1. A few years back a young lady started to attend Chams for a while. She found her confidence and, as some do, drifted out of the group’s orbit. Rare visits would ensure all her trajectory crossed ours. Background aside, on listening to her activities, she’d been DJing in drag – her words – and seemed at ease in being both on the Trans spectrum and performing drag. Thus as queens slip into transness, if that can be a word, so to can we.

      As to getting ‘glammed up’ I think there’s something very freeing about leaving the working week behind and stepping out as a more fabulous you. It almost seems a way of life for many Brits.

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