I have a favourite contestant from Rupaul’s drag race, I have watched sequinned queens lip-sync at Pride and I have met with people who use drag as a political tool to question gender and sexuality norms (think, Conchita Wurst, Paris is burning and men dressed as ‘women dressing as men’).
On these occasions I have felt empowered, subversive and uncomfortable in varying measures.
But underlying these impressions I’ve discovered that rather than feeling like a fish-out-of-water, the Church and the drag scene have more in common than either would like to admit.
Drag prides itself on unconditional acceptance. It’s on the side of the marginalised. The scene is full of people who felt hurt or rejected by mainstream norms. Drag, like the Church, is a motley crew of messy people from all different backgrounds who have become family.
This unity of cause got me thinking that there are a few things we could learn…
Rather than being apologetic about its counter-cultural stance, this scene finds its identity in its subversion. There is no: “Erm, well, yes, we do reject society’s values I suppose but we’re totally normal, I promise. You can come along if you like and if that’s not too awkward. If you did there’d be a free meal and even then we’d only tell you about Jesus for a few minutes before a quiz.”
Drag shouts: “I am what I am, It’s pretty fantastic. Come join in!” It’s at home in its distinctiveness.
Given that what we are is the body of Christ – that we are in receipt of the ultimate hope and redemption – it’s an awkward comparison.
But it’s more than that. Drag sees itself as a prophetic movement, speaking to society at large; a voice crying out in the wilderness against harmful gender and sexuality norms. They see something quite wrong with the beliefs our society holds and stand as an alternative.
The Church has such an amazing history of forging a better way of doing things. We pioneered welfare, orphanages and freedom from slavery. Even in the comparatively small selection of Christians, people are running credit unions as an alternative to pay-day loans, starting Fairtrade suppliers as a response to exploitation, changing communities through art, pioneering anti-trafficking campaigns and engaging with government to stand on the side of the oppressed.
But it seems that in our driving for humility in social action, we are not quite so aware of our prophetic voice to the world as our drag counterparts.
We need to own the fiercely transformative and political power there is in saying: “Things are wrong. There is another way. This is it.”
At risk of getting mullered in the comments section – I know, we shouldn’t boast in anything that isn’t the cross! – we could do with a bit more P.R.I.D.E.
The body of Christ is flawed, but it’s fantastic. Sissy that walk.
Photo taken from Flickr user sea turtle under a Creative Commons license.