To paraphrase a famous saying, whenever I hear the words ‘gay culture’, I reach for my (metaphorical) revolver.
I reached for my revolver when George Michael, once again arrested trolling for anonymous sex, cried out “But it’s my culture”.
No, George, random anonymous sex is not ‘gay culture’. It is a relic of the days when that was all we dared, lest we be hounded by the mob and strung up on the gallows. Let’s grow up, shall we?
I reached for my revolver again last week as newsreaders across the nation began blathering about Mardi Gras as ‘a celebration of gay culture’. Really? Several people said to me this past week, “I recognise nothing there that represents me or my life”.
Take drag. Just as you can’t have a motor show without bikini-clad babes, it seems you can’t have a gay event without drag queens.
Once drag queens were the standard-bearers at events like Stonewall. Once they said what others could not or would not say. But is that still the case?
By now everyone has worked out that ‘gay male’ does not equal ‘pop on a frock at the drop of a handbag’. Straight men are as likely to be effeminate as gay men. And that ‘gay event’ does not mean ‘Straights: venture in at your peril’.
Surely the once unsayable is now sayable by anyone, with or without a frock?
Drag is a historical relic of the days when we had to always be hidden, or in disguise. As a well-known drag queen explained, “When I put the slap and drag on, I can say and do the things I wouldn’t dare otherwise. Then I take it all off and go back to being me. I’m safe. No one recognises me out of drag”.
That was once an essential function that helped our community to cohere. But do we really need it any more?
Surely that disguise has largely outlived its time. Increasingly, when I watch a talented drag performer with good material and a great voice, I find myself thinking, “You don’t need that frock, darl. Your talent will stand up by itself.”
And as a community we don’t need to use the lazy marketing strategy of putting a few blokes in frocks up front as shorthand for ‘gay’. We can stand up by ourselves now, as well. Can’t we?