“A catchall category for gender identities other than man and woman, thus outside of the gender binary”.
I am happy to report the future of Gender Queer is alive and well! I was asked to co-host & judge a drag show contest at Wheaton College in Norton, MA last weekend, (performing my Lady Impersonation act), along with the renowned drag performer Devon Cass, performing as Cher.
I have performed at thousands of events, but this night stands out as one of my all time favorites! First, the show was held in a church. The pews and balconies were packed with cheering college students; the women sporting fake beards and the men adorned with wigs and outrageous make-up. It was like a football homecoming only this time Gender Queers took the field.
Second, the audience was beyond enthusiastic. They screamed and egged on every performer with a joy so urgent and pure, you would have thought we won marriage equality that night.
And finally, each act had incredible energy and heart. There were as many drag kings as there were queens; from local talent Calypso Phoenix Brown, to drag queens Amber, Aviana and Nicolette and the Olympians and to Drag Kings Kharisma and Niko Suave + Dick Thickwood. Niko + Dick won first place and Aviana won Crowd Favorite, but all the acts were equal in beauty and spirit.
So what is cross-dressing? Why do some people want to put themselves on a stage, in front of others, and perform as the opposite gender they were born with? Why do others undergo hormone treatment, surgeries and legal name changes, in the pursuit of a gender they feel more connected to?
I am not going to even attempt to answer such complex and personal questions but I can write a little of my own experiences in hopes of opening the dialogue.
I was born a girl but as a kid I loved climbing trees, making forts and pretending I was a spy. My friends were girls so I wasn’t a true tomboy but my older brother thought Barbies were dumb and since I idolized him and loved to roughhouse, I decided he was right.
I figured out I was queer when I was 17 because I couldn’t stop obsessing about The Indigo Girls. Amy Ray was so hot with her leather jacket and tough-girl lyrics. When people asked me if I liked Butch Women, I’d quickly reply that I liked girls for being girls and if I wanted to be with a man I would be with a man.
Then, one day in women’s studies class, during our first year of college, we had a guest speaker who talked about the history of butch / femme dynamics. I don’t have much recollection of what she said but somehow she got me to stop judging butches. The next time I went out to a women’s dance or lesbian bar I noticed how completely hot the butches were, and how talented they were at making me feel beautiful. I shaved my head, wore lipstick and dresses, and declared myself a lipstick lesbian. Even just writing about this early discovery is making me all giddy and excited again. I guess I can’t explain it but something about the butch/femme dynamic is totally hot, silly, fascinating, exciting and tantalizing for me.
Over the years I’ve dated women who were butchier than me in various ways. One girlfriend was such a boy that I would frequently mention my support of her, if she ever wanted to transition to a male. She told me she always longed to be a boy, she was called a boy as a kid, she had incredible arm muscles for no reason at all, and well… I can’t explain it but she just felt like a dude – more so than any guy I had ever been with. Other girlfriends of mine were soft butches, or feminine with a strong sporty side.
Sometimes I feel butchy. When I make the first move with a girl I’m interested in, when I talk business, or when I’m flirting with a girl who seems more feminine than me. I’m not comfortable being butchy all the time, but it’s fun, powerful and somehow calming for me at times.
What is gender? Do our hormones dictate personality traits or is it all learned behavior? My guess is it’s a mix of both and slightly different for everyone.
I don’t have all the answers but my truest feeling is that gender is a form or shape, like clothing. It’s fun to try on clothing. Some clothes fit me better than others. But underneath it all, we are so much more; we are spirit, breath and space.
So maybe it’s fun to get up on stage and mock gender’s rigidity. Maybe it’s healing to perform as a gender you feel you never got to express.
Whatever it is, it’s damn sexy and fun and makes people scream and I think all college homecomings, from now on, should include a cross dressing component.
As one student put it, “This is THE event to go to on campus”.
So as gay marriage is becoming more mainstream it’s thrilling to see that gender queer seems to be close behind.