I went to a drag show fundraiser the other day, to support Orange County Dream Team and my friends who preformed. And I was talking with some of my friends before the night really took off, when one of them asked if I thought of them differently since they were in drag. (for a bit of context – this particular part of the conversation included me and 2 male friends, 1 gay and 1 hetero, and it was the gay one who asked the question). And I thought about it a moment (because I can only answer trivial questions without thinking), and I said I didn’t think differently about either of them, because what does it matter to me what clothes they wear?
And this is true, but it is the simple gloss of my thoughts on that situation. Especially, since the way the question was phrased and asked, it felt most like a question about whether I felt differently about my hetero friend dressing in drag.
The longer answer is that seeing my friends in drag helped me better understand them and my thoughts and feelings toward them. I realized that they could’ve been dressed in trash bags, and I would’ve still been standing with them, talking, because they are my friends. Socially, it’s more acceptable for gays to drag, but societal conventions are really the best rules to break, and they both looked phenomenal in their dresses and wigs and makeup. They’re both attractive when they look like the social definition of male, and they were still attractive when they were dressed in the social markers of female.
But their physical attractiveness isn’t even what I saw when my friend asked what I thought. I saw my friends; 2 guys I’ve talked and shared with and worked toward a more just world with and debated ideologies with. And I thought of specific moments in Saga* and Game of Thrones** and realized I finally understood these moments more completely.
There’s a moment in book 2 of Game of Thrones where 1 character, a spy and master of disguise comes to the house where another character has hidden his mistress, a prostitute, to discuss the political situation. The man doesn’t immediately recognize the disguised spy, until his mistress calls the spy by name to offer him a drink. Her lover realizes that she can see beyond the physical distractions of appearance to see the person, and he attributes this to professional necessity.
Saga has a gorgeous moment in Chapter 8 when Alana is talking with Marco’s father, Barr. He is trying to understand why Alana would forsake her own race to run away with Marco, in an effort to understand why his son would willingly sacrifice everything for her. Alana begins by telling Barr that Marco annoyed her when they first met, so Barr asks her why she would risk everything to be with him. Alana says because Marco is “so goddamn beautiful.” Barr assures Alana looks don’t last forever, and Alana explains she wasn’t talking about Marco’s looks.
In a moment where my friends were disguised and asking if I viewed them differently in a context where others might have thought less of them, I saw my friends as they are and thought, through breaking the conventions (1 even more so than others) they were showing those who haven’t had the chance to get to know them like I have what I knew already – how beautiful they are. And sometimes they only way to see the truth of a person is to see through the disguises they wear.
*Saga is the great comic by Brian Wood and Fiona Staples. It’s other-worldly (like literally set on other worlds) and set in the middle of a war no one really understands but is over differences no one can change. I love this series, and highly recommend it, especially if you like comics that deal with issues. **Seriously, if you don’t know what Game of Thrones (I know the real book series goes by Song of Fire and Ice but that’s too long to reference all the time) is, run the Google search and you can catch the drift. Basically it’s an epic fantasy about politics…