It’s been a while since I’ve written an LGBTQI-related post. Since I’m not directly part of that community and am always mindful of appropriation I will usually only write something when I think it will be most useful. There are many great blogs and writers covering topics of importance catering to that audience as well but I know that we each have unique voices with something to offer. Since this has come up as a topic to be addressed I knew I had to write about trans-misogyny.
Thanks to the continued subversive behavior of gays and lesbians many of us who identify as hetereo are understandably confused about the difference between a drag queen and a trans woman. Many people mistakenly think they are interchangeable and some variation of “a guy who plays at being a woman”. Then, if you add cross-dressers to the mix or gender queers it gets even more confusing. It needs to be addressed.
Since I’m writing this for a mostly cis gender hetero (female) audience I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible for you. Cis gay men typically do drag. Think of it as a performance (some will say tribute) – like a clown putting on very distinctive makeup and style of dress – so you recognize that performer as one. They like to emulate and imitate cis gender straight women, especially famous ones who’ve been adopted as icons. Think Cher. Tina Turner. Madonna. Liza. Lady Gaga. There has to be something over the top with their persona. Yes, Lady Gaga has manipulated her image to have people question whether she is a trans woman but the response to that would be an entire blog post.
hI haven’t touched on some of the more troubling aspects when some decide to take an exaggerated view of a “sassy” black woman that very quickly falls into a racio-misogynistic stereotype. Cis straight men tend to be cross-dressers. Trust me when I say that doing a Google search on terms will net you a wealth of research information that you can do as an aside to this conversation. Oh and let me explain what cis gender means. Basically it’s the majority population. As with any dominant group often the non-dominant groups will be much better-versed in their functionality and nuances than the reverse. When it comes to gender, identity and expression are not always placed into boxes.
Cis gender as defined in Wikipedia: Cisgender (pronounced /ˈsɪsdʒɛndər/) is an adjective used in the context of genderissues and counselling to refer to a class of gender identities formed by a match between an individual’s gender identity and the behavior or role considered appropriate for one’s sex.Cisgender is a neologism that means “someone who is comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth”, according to Calpernia Addams.“Cisgender” is used to contrast “transgender” on the gender spectrum.
As I’ve stated a lot of the blame for the confusion belongs at the feet of cis gays and lesbians who you might be shocked to discover are often opposed to trans men and women, but especially trans women. I’d say it’s about jockeying for power and dominance and perhaps a little jealousy. The problem further escalates anytime there’s legislation involved. Some legislation that would grant same gender couples to marry as written has nullified the marriages of a trans partner with their non-trans mate.
If you think that sounds ridiculous it is, but the majority LGBTQI leadership (which still looks your average white guy convention running things) wants to dictate the terms for everyone. As you can imagine when other people speak for you they can easily miss the mark (even in having this conversation I will not please everyone). Not to mention they’ve erased you from the conversation.
So why aren’t more trans men and women speaking up? If they’re not engaging and educating then misconceptions will continue to be pervasive. One of issues is the very danger trans women and men who identify themselves or are recognized are in. Google search for Duanna Johnson. Or Brandon Teena. The danger does not only come from heteros, but from others part of the “rainbow” tribe as well. This is why we need to have these conversations to begin with. Active engagement from people we can relate to helps greatly.
There is a documented history of exclusion and actual physical violence even amongst LGBTQIs. Then there’s this commercialization of drag with shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race. Since he publicly declared support for a white cis gay male, Charles Knipp, who claims to be a comedian, while dressing in racial drag (blackface) and putting on a fat suit to portray a black woman he calls Shirley Q. Liquor who speaks in ebonics and has 19 out of wedlock children for mostly white cis gay audiences for LAUGHS and PROFIT, RuPaul is not someone I can support. Being marginalized doesn’t mean you can’t marginalize someone else. It’s a mess!
Even in San Francisco where I’ve lived for eight years, may be considered by some to be the “big gay mecca” – which in and of itself is a quandary – has a nightclub called “Trannyshack” where the servers are supposed to be trans. Remember the “big secret” plot twist from the movie “The Crying Game”. It took me all of three seconds to figure that one out.
I used it in my title for a reason though. I want drag queen to get flagged along with the slur so that other people start connecting the dots to why it’s unacceptable. You may be wondering what prompted this post. I had a face-to-face conversation with a cis gender woman who does a lot of good work involving HIV prevention but I’d noticed her marginalization of trans women was a common enough thread for me that it made me uncomfortable. Since I had to opportunity to speak to her in person I did so. I let her figure out what I’d found troublesome instead of telling her. I had hoped the realization would have the greater impact. I don’t think she appreciated it either way but sometimes we have to have the unpleasant conversations to be better people. I’m no authority nor do I have all the answers but when we dehumanize people in the slightest we become part of the problem. Apathy causes just as much damage as direct aggression.
This was also why wrote the blog posts referencing Perez Hilton and GLAAD last summer (I can’t believe it’s been one year!) after he got into that physical confrontation with the manager from the Black Eyed Peas and used the word faggot after he contributed to destroying Isaiah Washington’s career for allegedly using it. I demanded they take action and they did. Yes, I’m still surprised to this day. I want to be part of a continuing dialog that sheds light in dark places. Hence the post.
P.S. It’s the one year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s passing. I’m only interested in remembering the feeling I got listening to many of the songs he recorded — not condoning his behavior. Here’s my post from last year.