This morning, while avoiding delving into the tedious task of writing a looooong overdue seminar paper, I got introduced to two important figures in gender bending through the wonders of television.
First, a profile on tennis champion and specialized surgeon Renee Richards on Sunday Morning.
Second, a documentary about Charles Busch, drag performer and playwright extraordinaire.
I'm ashamed to admit neither of them had been on my radar screen until this morning.
I also watched John Waters on Henry Rollins's IFC (or is it Sundance?) show last night. Love them both.
Cable is ruining my life.
But back to the gender benders. BFF asked me why I have such a fascination with transgenderism and transexualism. I think she might suspect I'm a closet case. But I actually do think of myself as a drag queen. I find men who perform as women with reverence to be playfully liberationist for all of us who identify, or perhaps struggle to identify with our feminine natures. Male dipshits on sitcoms who dress as women to make fun of women have the opposite effect. What drag does better than anything else, is show that gender is indeed a performance. Language doesn't help us with this. In French there is only one word for woman, female, feminine--at least in English we have the three words. There is a difference between sex, gender and sexuality. There can, and often is, overlap. All of us deserve to think through the complexities of who we are in these terms, especially within a culture that denigrates the feminine.
And as much as I love drag queens, I'm concerned that the gender bender figures who are gaining positive attention and getting accepted by a mainstream audience are/were born into male bodies. Where are the women transitioning into male forms? Where are the beloved butch dykes? They're out there, but they're not getting press. Why are drag kings harder for us to swallow, so to speak, than drag queens, especially if my cultural-hatred-of-the-feminine argument stands? Is it fundamentally biological (and believe me, I hate to bring the argument into this territory, but bear with me) . . . is it the 'how-dare-you-subvert-your-procreative-nature'? Or is it the harder to pull off performance of it all? It's perhaps easier to worship a glamorous figure who is indeed performing on a literal stage, a la Charles Busch or Ru Paul, and harder to be drawn to someone we expect to perform a glamorous role in life who is choosing to fade into the background. Or, do we believe in a kind of essentialism for men that we don't for women? That somehow, you cannot perform masculinity the way you can femininity, so butch dykes are ultimately frauds? Aha, perhaps I'm winding my way back to the hatred of the feminine here. . . .
Help me out, ya'll. What says you?