Hold Up A Mirror

Hollywood’s version of ‘performing drag,’ Victor/Victoria with Julie Andrews performing the title role. Photo courtesy of Common Sense Media

An antidote to the rhetoric of hate masking as victimhood.

November 23

Today, I reached out to a therapist friend with the following question,

“Do you feel that the Club Q shooting was different compared to previous mass shootings? This was not an attack on a place only, but an attack as well on an event, targeting a community performance. (1) We’ve reached another dimension of violence, one that is not simply identified by a place — a bar, a nightclub, a temple, a church, a school — but identified with a community event. Thus, the potential targets will come in multiples. Do you agree?

She said she did.

I asked this question before I read the following NYTimes Op Ed piece, “Club Q and the Demonization of Drag Queens,” by Michelle Goldberg:

During the early years of Donald Trump’s administration, conservatives downplayed the contempt for homosexuality and gender nonconformity that had once been central to their movement, foregrounding racial resentment instead. Opposition to gay marriage had become a political loser, and it was hard to pose as champions of wholesome family values while enthusiastically supporting a thrice-married libertine who’d made a cameo in soft-core porn. But in recent years, as growing numbers of kids started identifying as trans, the puritanical tendency on the right has come roaring back, part of an increasingly apocalyptic worldview that sees the erosion of traditional gender roles as a harbinger of national collapse…

The language of “grooming” recapitulated old homophobic tropes about gay people recruiting children, while also playing into the newer delusions of QAnon, which holds that elite liberals are part of a sprawling satanic child abuse ring…

Drag queens have been a particular obsession of those who believe that children are being lured into changing their gender or sexual orientation. “The drag queen might appear as a comic figure, but he carries an utterly serious message: the deconstruction of sex, the reconstruction of child sexuality, and the subversion of middle-class family life,” Rufo in an essay about Drag Queen Story Hour, a public event series in which drag queens read to children and lead singalongs.

Consider the sub-text of ‘drag’ as mirroring. (2)

Performing ‘as if’ is an ancient and respectable dramatic artifice. Consider Shakespeare’s actors employing switching genders to complete the tale, and enhance the drama, much to the delight of Globe audiences. (3)

“Drag” is naturally aggressive.

All humor is.

But “drag” goes broader than other forms of performative humor. “Drag” engages the audience’s sense of fantasy, of imaging.

Hence, going ‘drag,’ performing ‘drag’ is the acting out of mirroring, and the concomitant encounter with formality. “Drag” sashays in and out, exploring formal convention with its sidekick, license.

Those who reduce ‘drag’ to mocking social convention miss the point of ‘drag’s’ civility: to reclaim felicity.

A ‘piece of this’ was destroyed violently Saturday night at Club Q in Colorado Springs.

What opposes mirroring is dissembling, concealing. What opposes mirroring is the shredding of what’s probable by what’s feared: mirroring and its audiences are taboo, ‘demonized’ as Goldberg’s essay attests.

A defense of dissembling is that it’s opposite is toxic, capable of spreading, summoning anger and revulsion. During the media’s reporting of the Club Q violence, State Sen. Mallory McMorrow of Michigan surfaced to comment on precisely this struggle of dissembling. was smeared as a “groomer” by ‘fellow Senator’ Lana Theis, in an email campaign letter to her donors. One recalls McMorrow’s eloquent rebuke:

“I am the biggest threat to your hollow, hateful scheme,” McMorrow said, “because you can’t claim that you are targeting marginalized kids in the name of ‘parental rights’ if another parent is standing up to say no. So then what? Then you dehumanize and marginalize me. You say that I am one of them.” (4)

McMorrow went further: she held up a mirror for others to see. She didn’t just claim the narrative, the story. Sen. McMorrow proposed that the forum of which she was a member, the place where she worked, was violated. She didn’t just call out her attacker, she addressed her remarks to the Speaker of the Senate, to the institution of government to which she was elected to serve.

“I am a white, straight, Christian married suburban mom.”

She held up a mirror.

November 24

Notes

1-The Las Vegas shooting occurred at a mass outdoor concert, which though advertised as an ‘event,’ was not a community performance.

2-“mirroring,” Wikipedia:

3-Twelfth Night, cite

4-

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