Saturday, January 31, 2009

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Minneapolis, Minnesota

"Honey, I'm twice the woman you are, and more of a man than you'll ever be!" – A drag queen at Baton in Chicago to a heckling straight woman in the audience, as recounted by Ironwood, a gay man who came out in the Twin Cities in the 1970s.

Anyone who still thinks that all GLBT folks share one common experience or perspective need look no further than "Where have all the drag queens gone?," an article by Thomas Rogers for, and the 48+ letters it has generated in response.

A 20s-something writer, Rogers posits his positive experience as a gay teenager ("For many men of my generation, coming out registered on the personal trauma scale somewhere between our first pimple and the pain of our first breakup.") against the campy spectacle that has lost favor with a generation of young gay men.

His readers applaud and maul him, and each other, as they discuss the role of drag queens as party favors; as symbols of liberation vs. performance/folk art; or as symbols of authority, along with priests and judges. One reader found Rogers's experience and article to be pretentious and shallow. Another bemoaned the omission of drag kings. Another cautioned that, appearances of progress aside, 20-40 per cent of GLBT adolescents still attempt suicide each year. More than one reminds that it was the drag queens who provided the gay movement with its Rosa Parks moment at New York City's Stonewall Inn. Yet another laments the seeming disappearance of these cultural unicorns.

It is nice to note, however, that the spectacle of men in dresses still resonates among a generation of older straight men; see YouTube images of a Republican-candidate-for-president-in-drag (Rudy Giuliani) flirting with Donald Trump.

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