So far, this is the most difficult topic I have approached on CDH. It’s difficult not only from trying to decide what I want to say-I’m still divided actually-but from not wanting to be misunderstood by readers.
For those unfamiliar, I have performed live for the past six years with Tokyo Closet Ball. We are a performing arts group with gender subversion, inversion and general controversion as a theme. Well, early this year the idea of a family friendly/all ages version of our show was floated around. Frankly, our usual show is pretty much the opposite of family-friendly. At the time, it sounded fine. We’d gain exposure for our show, make contacts, and expand our opportunities.
Later that month, we were part of the entertainment at a charity event for an organization which supports children with major illnesses. Then recently, several of our members were scheduled to perform for a ‘get out the vote’ organization for overseas voters. Communications got mixed up, and I ended up being the only performer.
I want to add here that we are all at different points in our journey. I never compare where I am to anyone else. It’s not about better or worse, just different. That said, I have to tell you that interacting with children in full dress and makeup is a big psychological hurdle. After 6+ years of being in front of audiences, it’s hard to get that little voice out of my head-actually it’s a big voice-saying, ARE YOU NUTS? THIS IS ADULT ENTERTAINMENT! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Before last weekend’s show, we were expressly told to keep everything family-friendly. That not only meant no sexy clothing-I’ve never worried so much about hemlines in my life-but no songs about sex, drugs, or violence. The nervous edge went even higher when I saw a dear friend was there with her young daughter. That led to this epic exchange of comments between myself and her very precocious child:
Her; “For a second I thought you were a girl.”
Me: “Only a second? I’ll try to do better next time.”
Her: “Maybe I won’t recognize you.”
Me: “That’s perfect.”
It was truly a sweet moment. Later, she gave me a big hug. Too good. How could there be a BUT to that? Well…..actually there isn’t. BUT……in the bigger picture-I mean, for Triesste it’s about glamour with realism. Despite the success of Drag Race and other shows, the struggle for wider acceptance and tolerance is still very much a struggle. I totally support the idea that crossdressers are just people with lives like any other people. I am also in total support of the right to be outrageous, to be flamboyant, to be dangerous, and to be a threat to bland conformity.
As drag becomes more mainstream, I can’t help wondering if the more risqué elements will be marginalized. Perhaps they will remain stereotyped as connected to crime and dysfunctionality, the way our entire community is in the minds of many. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not about better or worse. Wherever we are in our journey, it is real and worthy. I just hope we can all have a future where just blending in, or totally standing out, are treated with equal respect. That will be the day when facing the world as the beautiful selves we are will be not a risk but a reward.