This post is just to start a conversation because I don't know what to think about an event about which I've been seeing a lot of publicity. I was not sure whether I could post the publicity below but upon a google search, I saw that the event promoters have scattered the internet with the same kind of publicity so I figure they will only be happy that I pasted it.
Anyhow... what do folks think about calling a dance the "trans-formers" dance and then saying there is a drag theme?
It seems to me that even though drag can be liberating and educational for everyone to get a chance to try something new or to see what it feels like to walk down the street with a non-mainstream-approved gender presentation, it is damaging to trans folks when the entire trans umbrella is associated with "just drag." Drag kings, drag queens, and other drag performers are part of trans communities, and often part of lesbian and gay communities as well, but not all trans folks are doing drag. In fact, many trans folks are doing the gender that they have experienced internally throughout their lives. Does implying that "trans = drag" make the whole trans umbrella seem silly, fun, overdone, and "not real." I don't think that drag is always silly, but it is certainly not always serious. Drag is fun and awesome but I'm not sure why it's attached specifically to "trans" folks only, or to all trans folks.
In addition, the not-quite-human portrayal of trans folks (eg transformer robots) seems somewhat problematic. Trans folks are often portrayed as not quite real or natural. In a way, like monsters. While Susan Stryker tried to take back the image of the monster for trans people, I am not sure we are yet to a point where I like non-trans folks associating trans folks with monsters, robots, or other not-quite-humans.
I am not sure if this feeling of awkwardness clouds my ability to properly read this dance ad below so please, read it, let me know what you think. Does it look like just a fun party or some kind of exploitation or exotification to you? I am not trying to accuse the people throwing the party of anything in particular at this point - I don't even know them. For all I know, this event (and indeed all of the events related to this "theme" of "gender non-conforming" are organized by a group of mostly trans folks, or non-trans folks with a lot of trans input, although I never thought of "gender non-conforming" as a "theme" before.) If you are one of the organizers, I hope you don't feel attacked if you are reading this post, but that you feel that it is an invitation to dialog. Please, post what you are thinking when you name and publicize this event. Tell me why I should go, and why I should not feel hurt by these words.
I know that I am often personally uncomfortable at "drag" events because unless it's people I really know, I don't know what to do or wear. I know that people often expect me to "pretend" to be something that I actually am. And it's awkward.
Here is the ad:
16th Annual Outlaw Dance: "TRANS-formers"
Saturday Nov. 3 9pm-1am
Come join us for Lambda's 16th Annual Outlaw Dance.
In keeping with our gender non-conforming theme for the year, we'll be
having a drag theme. Theme-dress is encouraged but by no means
necessary. There will be a drag contest, with prizes for Best Boy and
FREE admission (21+) and open bar.
WHEN: Saturday, November 3, 9:00 pm – 1:00 am
WHERE: Ropes-Gray, Pound Hall, Harvard Law School
Featuring DJ D'hana Perry, Co-producer and DJ of a monthly queer dance
night called The Neighborhood (www.myspace.com/theneighborhoodjp).
Have I mentioned that I love the transformers? Here is an awesome transformers pic: