Drag, Counter Culture, and Transmisogyny

Currently there rages a controversy about the drag community and its use of transmisogynistic slurs, in particular the t-slur. Among the justifications from cis drag queens on their use of the word is the idea that drag is inherently offensive because it exists as a counter culture to mainstream. It is inherently offensive in today’s society because it runs the opposite as to what is expected in the mainstream. There is a problem with this, especially at the defense of transmisogyny.

There is nothing counter culture about transmisogyny. In fact, transmisogyny is so deeply ingrained in our society that it is literally everywhere. The most popular TV shows ranging from Bob’s Burgers to House and any TV show among all genres and networks all have that one episode. That one episode, or even a handful of episodes, where they drop the t-slur, make jokes about ‘men in dresses’ (in reference to trans women), or run of the ‘shock’ of a woman with a penis.

In video games, trans women are the butts of jokes as well. In Catherine a trans woman is given the same dreams as the men in order to prove how she is really a man. Grand Theft Auto V makes jokes at the expense of transgender sex workers, a very real reality due to the transmisogyny faced by trans women when it comes to finding jobs. These women are portrayed with beard shadows and make references to tucking and electrolysis. The writers did their research and then made sure to do the exact opposite, playing off the ‘men in dresses’ trope, yet again.

Outside of media, trans women and trans feminine people fair no better. They experience high rates of homelessness, unemployment, and mental health issues due to the transmisogyny they face. They are denied access to homeless and rape shelters due to being trans and there are cases where trans women have died from this denial. They experience harassment, assault, and even sexual assault from law enforcement, health care practitioners, and basically everyone in society, at all levels.

This extends to online, where trans women and trans feminine people are misgender, degendered, and othered by places such as the porn industry that label them with slurs. Their identities are stripped away and replaced with the slurs or the fact that they are transgender, fetishized for this fact. In fact, porn sites often exclude these women from tagging their videos as such, forcing them to identify as only transgender, or on most porn sites as t-slurs and sh*m*les.

So if drag is about a counter culture, one that is meant to shock and offend, why is it hanging on so tightly to transmisogyny? Transmisogyny is ingrained in our society. It is something that is experienced and reinforced every day. Trans women and trans feminine people are constantly told about how they are t-slurs, not real women, or even real people for the matter. People are quick to defend the heterosexuality of men online if they ever dare find a woman attractive, who happens to be trans. They are quick to point out that she is a t-slur, or actually a man. This is something that entire TV episodes of TV shows are based on.

So, I ask again, if drag is counter culture, why does it reinforce these ideas? Why does it cling so tightly to two words, words supported and used by televisions shows, law enforcement, the media, and so forth, to describe trans women and trans feminine people? If drag was truly counter culture in this regard, they would be throwing away they word. They would be taking a stand behind the trans women and trans feminine people who wish to be seen as women and people, not slurs. If drag was truly counter culture, they would be rallying behind Parker Molloy, Zinnia Jones, and Carmen Carrera for putting their feet down and saying enough is enough.

If drag was truly counter culture, they would be supporting the radical notion that trans women and trans feminine people are women and human, deserving of basic human respect and dignity. They would shock and upset their viewers through this notion that goes against the very beat of the drum of the transmisogynistic society we live in. Unfortunately, drag, like Gay Inc., and the Gay Rights Movement ©™, has turned to follow the dollar. Drag has trampled on its roots and its history, chasing that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Greed as replaced meaning and rebellion.

Drag is no longer counter culture, at least not the drag represented in the mainstream through shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race. Drag and its rebellious nature has left its history back at Stonewall, with its supporting mothers, trans women Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson. They have taken their spiked heels off and left their House. No, drag is not counter culture, not anymore.

Category is: Business as Usual.


Author: Lucian Clark

Lucian Clark was born and raised in South New Jersey. Recently they published their first novel, a dark romance, titled Cemetery Drive. Their works have been featured across numerous platforms such as The Advocate and in anthologies like Werewolves Versus and Postcards From The Void. They've also been featured on several podcasts to talk about horror, activism, and their writing. With a passion for all things spooky, horrific, and queer, Lucian can often be found on social media talking about werewolves, rats, and My Chemical Romance. When not actively writing or reading, Lucian is also the curator of the queer horror website, GenderTerror, which features original art, stories, interview and more. They can also be found playing video games or with their pets (currently some rats and a cat). They are active in local and national social activism with a focus on LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive justice.

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