A phenomenological exploration of what happens to me when I see a Bad Drag Show.

…in which I lay bare my internalized homophobia and other stuff I’m not allowed to talk about.

I didn't want to offend any actual drag queens, good or bad. So, I figured no one likes Rudy Guiliani.

I didn’t want to offend any actual drag queens, good or bad. So, I figured no one likes Rudy Guiliani.

I had the honor of seeing a Bad Drag Show the other night. Before I begin, I want to say that it was for a worthy cause and I applaud this. I also enjoyed the company of the person with whom I attended the show. Heck, I even tipped the performers. That said, I most definitely did not enjoy the show itself.

Also, I am not calling all drag “bad.” This is not that.

My knowledge of phenomenology has been entirely gleaned from an article I used to assign to my students in a class I taught called The Mechanics of American Retro. The article was entitled “The Dislocation of Time: A Phenomenology of Television Reruns.” All I really remember about it was the notion that even the most serious television drama devolves over time into “an intense comedy of obsolescence” where the viewer just mocks funny lapel widths.

But basically phenomenology is looking at how a something affects the subject, who in this case is me. Therefore, I’ll be looking at what goes through my body and mind when I see what I consider a Bad Drag Show. I will not be analyzing any specific show; instead I will be constructing a generic show for the purposes of this exercise. However, it should be noted that all Bad Drag Shows are pretty much the same.

I will be the first to admit that a drag show needs to clear a pretty high bar with me before I will consider it something more than really bad. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some amazing drag (and gender-fuck, etc.), but I feel those folks were entertainers first and foremost. For example, I am sad I will not be in Provahncetown to see the legendary Dina Martina this week.

Here goes:

  • When I enter the venue and I realize that there will be a drag show, my shoulders slump, I sigh, and I feel a tightness behind my sternum. When I am not expecting a drag show and then realize there will be a drag show from which I cannot escape for whatever socially-mandated reason, I feel trapped. I begin to do breathing exercises. I continue to focus on my breath throughout the evening.
  • When I see the tackily hung rainbow PartyCity detritus, I ask myself, “We’re in a gay bar, is anyone really gonna forget that they’re gay? Do they think I’m stupid?” I try to remember all those other things that remind me I’m gay, like the dude-lust, the coming-out struggle, and furniture with the clean modernist lines.
  • I cringe when the mistress of ceremonies grabs the microphone and shouts into it in a voice that naturally does not require amplification. The tightness behind increases due to the physics of the soundwaves upon my person.
  • Minor anger wells up behind my left eye when she welcomes the crowd by calling them “BITCHES!” I wonder where all this hostility is coming from.

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