An event at which drag artists read aloud sparked indignation among politicians. Prejudices and ignorance about drags showed up all too quickly.
On the occasion of Pride Week and Christopher Street Day in Munich, a city library is planning to offer a reading for families. Drag king Eric BigClit and drag queen Vicky Voyage are among the characters telling colorful stories to the kids. At first glance, this announcement seems like a colourful, diverse program for children. Especially since the artists emphasize that they don’t wear provocative costumes and that they adapt their appearance to their audience.
From the perspective of some conservative politicians, drag is not for children or families. Hubert Aiwanger, Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister of Bavaria, even used the term child welfare endangerment in this context. As if church indoctrination was ever a good thing. He was the public voice of all those who wanted the event to be banned. Her main argument was that drag “sexualizes children early”. The best example is the name “BigClit”, which can be translated into German with large clitoris. The children won’t do that because very few of them already speak English. In the eyes of conservatives, this objection does not count.
Anyone who bears the name of a genitalia can only indicate something with sexuality. Conservative voices are not convinced that drag king Eric BigClit is a trained social worker. It’s a fact that has nothing to do with drag as an art form. But the criticism has also dealt little with the artistic representation. Because drag is art that is also presented with child-friendly programs. It is colourful, pompous, entertaining and at the same time political and tolerant.
Drag as culture and art
The origins of drag lie in the theater, in a time when women were forbidden to act as actresses. Men took on the female roles in disguise. From this developed their own art forms such as travesty and drag. The entertaining travesty expands drag with staged, well thought-out artificial characters.
A highlight was RuPaul’s Drag Race. RuPaul reached a wide public with his broadcasts. Classic elements of drag are, for example, shows and performances with lip sync, death drops or elaborate costumes. Lip sync battles and death drops are now part of pop culture. They have become indispensable in other art forms, on social media or in entertainment programs. A look at the costumes and content of drag shows shows: Theater, fashion, handicrafts, body art, social and gender criticism mix with entertainment here.
Drags are provocative and political
Ballroom culture and drag balls in the United States provided a safe environment for queer people in the 20th century. She makes it clear that drag has always been a striving for tolerance and recognition of diversity. Drag queens were among the most vocal participants in the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The fights between police officers and queer people at the time are seen as a turning point in the pursuit of equal treatment for the LGBT+ community. For example, the drag queen Marsha P. Johnson became famous. She took part in the Stonewall uprising and campaigned for the rights of queer people.
Even today, drag is tolerant, diverse and loud for the LGBT+ community. Depending on the fictional character, the roles played by drag queens and kings are exaggerated and thus demonstrate clichés. At the same time, drag artists question standardized gender roles through their figure and artificiality.
Conservative misunderstanding or discrimination?
Many conservatives’ criticism in the current debate relates to questions of identity politics and the early sexualization of children. Drag addresses sexual and erotic aspects. “Sex sells” and entertains. This is especially true for performances aimed at adults. For example, when drag artists perform for children, erotic poses make little sense. The goal is to entertain the audience.
Identity politics is one of the difficult technical terms that, in the conservative framework, primarily aims at gender. The mixing of gender roles and identities is difficult to integrate into the reactionary worldview. But that’s what drag is all about. Drag and queerness are linked, even if drag has nothing to do with gender or sexuality. As a result, adults are more likely to view a performance from their own sexual perspective. For children who aren’t predisposed, it’s just a colorful show.
Cosmopolitanism and tolerance not only for drags
While politicians in Munich are discussing whether drag is for children, San Francisco has D’Arcy Drollinger as its first drag ambassador. In the city there are regular readings by drag artists in schools and the library instead. San Francisco is known for the local government’s commitment to civil rights and LGBT+ rights. On the other hand, shortly before Pride Week this year, Munich gives the impression of having stood still.
Under the pretext of child protection, politicians reject an expression they do not understand or appreciate. The colorful and loud conveys tolerance and diversity in a way that is inspiring and entertaining for children.
It is all the more important in tolerant Germany and Munich to open up or remain open to this art. Compared to other countries, Germany is in a good position when it comes to equal rights for homosexuals. Because there are enough countries where non-conforming behavior is life-threatening, and Germany should not take this as a role model. Discuss this in my tours.