Drag Race and Diversity: Yellow Doesn’t Define Me
A show such as Drag Race, where the vast majority of the cast is queer and a great percentage of them fall under the trans and non-binary umbrella, creates a fantasy for its young audience. It shows the young learning from the experienced and, the questioning learning from the brave. Season 2’s Miss Congeniality, Bimini Bon Boulash, approaches Ginny and the two bright-yellow-haired performers have a heart-felt conversation about the history of non-binary people.
Bimini embracing Ginny – Image courtesy of: BBC
This, perhaps, is the power of television at its finest. As a person questioning their identity, there is nothing more powerful than a person sure of themselves, sharing their journey. Bimini is a strong, hard-working role model for queer folks, wherever they happen to find themselves. However, they are also very vocal about privilege, and to the discerning viewer, this privilege is painfully obvious.
Had Bimini (or Ginny, or any individual that falls between the binary boundaries, or anyone who ever loved outside the social norm) been born elsewhere, in a less accepting country, in a harmful and underdeveloped neighbourhood, and had they not had healthy role models themselves, they might not have had the chance to become the activist powerhouse that they are.
Drag Race gives that acceptance to its viewers, if only through a screen. Despite its campy, mindless, often over-produced hour-long episodes, it shows queer people with their individual struggles, allows them to be creative and above all, themselves, and broadcasts it to the world. It gives queer people understanding, and normalises queerness to ‘outsiders’, curious cis-het folk who just happen to stumble into watching an episode.
”As a person questioning their identity, there is nothing more powerful than a person sure of themselves, sharing their journey.
Where is the disconnect? A young gay man watches Drag Race, becomes confident in himself and his identity, wants to explore his creativity through drag. He exits his house and is faced with abuse, overt and subtle homophobia, and an overall lack of understanding.
The ‘real world’ is leaps and bounds behind the welcoming, pink hues of the Werk Room. Trans teens have had their rights tentatively given and then violently taken away by ‘progressive’ countries such as the UK and some USA states. UK trans people have been put on years long waiting lists for a chance to have a ten minute talk with a professional regarding their gender and wish to reaffirm it via surgery.
The same story happens wherever you look. Women denied reproductive education and access to birth control and abortion. Mental illnesses being shoved under the rug or ‘solved’ with a walk in the park or mindful meditation. Poverty blamed on the poor, the plummeting economy blamed on the young.
“The journey to loving oneself is the longest and the hardest,” Ginny says, with a smile on their face that’s anything but happy. But it is strong. It is resilient. Facing these systems that are shaped to crush us, we must be strong, and resilient, and loud.
We should use our voices for those who cannot, who have already been worn down by the world, and say ‘enough’. There is so much inherent beauty, art, and joy in the world, and during a time in which your sole identity portrays a discussion point, use it as your shield.
This is where the importance of having these conversations lies. They empower. They give you a reason to fight. Every young person who survives the weight of the world today is a triumph, and they may go on to grow up to be the next Alan Turing, the next Frida Kahlo, the next Marsha P. Johnson.
So I would like to praise Drag Race for this, and invite other people to join in and celebrate their uniqueness. Bimini says, “It’s not up to anyone to decide how we feel inside.” So go out there and feel–your existence is a treasure and your identity is a gift.
Ginny Lemon – Image courtesy of: the artist