Thursday, November 19, 2009

Drag Bingo

Proud to be Out Week (PTBOW) at the University of Virginia is a chance for QSU, QuAA, and the LGBT Resource Center, the main resources at the University of Virginia to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students, faculty, staff, and alumni members, to work together with in order to celebrate being out and proud! Traditionally at the end of PTBOW, Friday night entails a night of fun and performances. This show is known as Drag Bingo and it took place this year on Friday November 13, 2009 from 8:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. in Newcomb Hall Ballroom. Drag Bingo is a mix of students and professionals performing a variety of drag acts while in between the acts the popular game of Bingo is played. The theme was “It’s Going To Be Wicked”, from the famous Broadway Musical “Wicked”. I first observed the crowd as they walked in and sat down at the big round tables. There were many gay men and young college women who sat with their friend circles. Although they did not perform in the show, some of the gay men dressed in drag by wearing dresses, wigs, glittery hats, and bright colors to show their support. The women wore clothing that they normally would to class.

There were eleven performance acts and five rounds of bingo. I will not go into depth about every performance, but there were common themes worth noting. Many of the drag queens interacted much more with the audience than the drag kings did. Some of the queens danced on tables and seductively obtained dollar bills from audience members in their ‘breasts’ or via their mouth. They also danced and strutted around in high heels flashing feminine qualities to the audience. Lastly, the queens tended to dance more around tables with many gay men, who danced with them, gave them money, and cheered them on. The music that they danced to was all by famous popular female artists, Paradiso Girls, Christina Millian, and Lady Gaga.

The first act was by a solo drag queen known as Ferosh Roché Dupuis. She has performed at Drag Bingo many times. This year, she wore skimpy outfits, showing off her mid body and legs, a wig, high heels, and makeup, provided by MAC cosmetics. She twisted her body closely to what is expected of a female in a club exemplified through the ‘booty pops’ that very famous feminine move that artists such as Beyonce and Shakira do in their music videos. I noticed that gay men were much more excited about the drag queens, and this was expressed clearly when she performed her sexy floor acts. When she did this, many people screamed with amazement and joy and some people even banged on the tables. She left the room by blowing a kiss, again, a very feminine thing to do. Her sexuality was being expressed here through a drag act.

Other drag queens including the ‘popular witches’ from the “Wicked” theme who wore feminine articles of clothing such as pink dresses, long blonde wigs, high heels, pink headbands, pink scarves, and a wand. They song they danced to was called “Popular” which talks about how to make the ugly witches popular. This was truly an important part of the show because of numerous things. Firstly, many of the gay men got the connection to the show and this act because they were singing along to the words and were very excited. Secondly, the song was slow and mentioned very feminine things to do to make a woman (in the sake of the musical, a witch) feminine such as the how to talk to boys, fix one’s hair, and what shoes to wear. Throughout the song, the popular witches flailed their hair, blew kisses, caressed their breasts, and dolled around; it was very feminine. This relates to Lorber’s main idea of gender bending. The drag performers were ‘gender bending’ by performing characteristics of another gender. They did not conform to their stereotypical gendered norms and characteristics. This also relates to gender performance. The drag performers constructed gender and their individuality through their acts. An example of this is the David Bowie picture we saw in earlier on in class. He was performing a gender and expressing individuality, similar to these performers.

There were also two drag king acts which were not as successful. One was a professional and danced to ‘Crazy Bitch’. He wore a cap and a goutee, adding masculine symbols to him. He tended to dance for the female audience members that were in the front row. The amateur act danced to a George Michal song. He put his hair up, wore sunglasses, a beard, had on tight jeans, and flashed a leather jacket. By observing these two acts, I noticed the way they moved to the music. They walked with limps, occasionally did shoulder shrugs, and bounced their hands up and down to the music like some male rappers do in their live performances. By using ties and pens as cigars to portray the male gender, the objects tell us that gender is definitely constructed socially and culturally. The audience was not as happy with the drag king performances as there were many people talking during them. Significantly less people gave them money as well. This could be because the performers did not interact with the audience like the queens did. Both performers did not wander into the audience beyond the first row. “Culturally”, a gay man told me, “drag kings are not as popular as queens and definitely do not make as much money since many of the audience members are gay men and like the queens better”. Although very impressive, the lack of popularity may be because the sexuality of the drag kings does not appeal as much to the sexuality of the audience.

It is important to note that all the queens are gay men, while for the kings it may not be the case. Drags acts were more popular and sexy where there were feminine clothing pieces and these were appreciated much more by the audience; this could be why the drag kings failed since they did not dress attractively. This is important to note because there are many more things that queens can do to sexualize their body in these drag acts than kings. This truly shows how sexuality and femininity is connected to females and the body. This relates to what we talked about in class about gender and how it is socially constructed and it’s a form of self identity and expression. Gender here is also not something that is stagnant; it has the capability of changing based on the individual’s desire. Thus, these performers, in a sense, ‘gender bent’ to express their sexuality and individualism.

This event shows that the people in the community are open to such individual and unique performances. Additionally, it displays the support for LGBT students at UVA. It’s great to know that people can express themselves through different types of music and in different ways as they see fit.

"Wicked"'s song - "Popular" -

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