News flash: Anyone can make a political statement through various mediums. You’d have to be blind to what’s happening around you to silence people who criticize their government.
On the evening of Feb. 4, a netizen’s post went viral after they called out a gay club in BGC for allowing its entertainers to bring politics into their performance. “Business intersecting with politics is bad. That’s a no brainer,” they said. “Why do you think people go to the club almost every day? People PAY in order to get in and have FUN, and really don’t care about your politics.”
Several netizens weighed in on this, saying that drag queens have the right to express their political opinions in their shows. DJ Paulo Castro also shared his thoughts on Facebook. “First of all, let me get the obvious out of the way. It’s your opinion, karapatan mo yan. THAT’S POLITICAL. You are free to spend your money where you want. You don’t want to see political drag queens? Then look for gay clubs that don’t allow their queens to be political,” Castro wrote. He also shared photos of Filipino drag queens holding a photo of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and a sign that read “Duterte is full of shit.”
Sure, drag queens are entertainers and they work to make us laugh and cheer. But just like any art form, drag is a political statement because it was considered a crime to see men dress like women. Many queens had to fight against discrimination and homophobia just to work and pursue their passion in performing. Even your favorite “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alums incorporate political messages into their drag while before, during, and after joining the competition.
As for the drag queens here in the Philippines who are openly criticizing Duterte, they have every right to do so. Again, you’d have to be blind to not see how this administration has mistreated Filipinos—from the women and LGBTQ+ community who are at the receiving end of hateful comments, to the Lumads who are fearing for their lives.
If that’s not your cup of tea, then you’re not the target audience of their political message.
If you’re still not convinced that drag is political, here are some examples:
The Stonewall Riots
In the ’50s and ’60s, gay clubs and bars weren’t welcomed in the US and police raids in such establishments were common. In 1969, the raid in the Stonewall Inn created tension between the New York City police and the LGBTQ+ patrons of the bar.Some drag queens were also arrested by police because “masquerading as a member of the opposite sex” was considered a crime then.
This prompted the Stonewall riots where members of the LGBTQ+ community gathered in Greenwich Village to fight back against discrimination. The riots went on from Jun. 28 to Jul. 3, 1969. A year after the Stonewall riots began, the US had its first Pride parade.
To this day, Stonewall is a gathering place for the American LGBTQ+ community during Pride. Drag queens like Sasha Velour, Peppermint and Lady Bunny constantly remind people of the lasting impact of the Stonewall in LGBTQ+ history.
Walter Dempster Jr. was known for his drag persona Walterina Markova. During World War II, he was forced to become a “comfort gay” for Japanese soldiers. His life story was portrayed in the film “Markova: Comfort Gay” starring Dolphy, which won two awards at the Brussels International Film Festival in 2001. The film not only showed Dolphy’s versatility as an actor, it also raised awareness on what happened to Markova during the Japanese occupation.
Raising awareness through “Drag Race” costumes
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” isn’t always about the queens’ funny antics and their sickening lip sync battles. Contestants like Nina West, Monique Heart and Manila Luzon have worn costumes that tackled issues from LGBTQ+ rights to women’s reproductive health.
Drag queen and NYC district 7 council candidate Marti Gould Cummings is known for her “X Change Rate” segment “Political Fish.” If you haven’t seen it, she basically interviews people in New York about political terms and US presidential candidates in 2020. Cummings’ interactions with civilians are funny, but the mostly clueless responses will also make you a little sad.
At end of every “Political Fish” episode, Cummings makes sure to remind viewers to vote and to read the news.
Pride isn’t just a party, it’s a protest. Last year, the Philippines’ Pride March gathered members of LGBTQ+ community and allies in support of various causes like mental health, religious acceptance, and the stigma around HIV/AIDS. Drag queens were also present at the march to entertain attendees and raise awareness on the aforementioned causes.
These are just some of the instances where drag was political. Are there others that we forgot to include? Share it with us on Twitter @preenph.