Of Drag Queens and Jesus

I have been fascinated by drag queens for almost twenty years, since I went with some friends to see RuPaul in concert in the early 90’s.  Lourdes and I went to a couple drag shows when we were courting and first married, extravagant affairs in Waikiki ballrooms that were fundraisers for AIDS service organizations or the LGBT Community Center.  There are some very funny pictures somewhere of petite Lourdes posing between two 6’4″ (6’8″ with heals) Samoan Drag Queens.  She fits right in.  Lourdes and I have gay friends that will dress in drag occasionally (Halloween), and I have a friend who is mahu, a Hawaiian word for a third gender (men who live as women) in the native Hawaiian culture.  I love many things about the drag culture.  It is grand, exaggerated, dramatic, in-your-face, fun and funny.  But I especially love how drag crosses boundaries, transgresses cultural and even biological norms.  I have heard some use drag in a more generic sense to mean dressing in a symbolic way or putting on an identity.  I sometimes think of the robe and stole I wear in worship as my clergy drag.  In this sense, drag can be used as a strategy for crossing various boundaries.  Jesus was all about crossing boundaries.

I wonder if drag provides a way to talk about the transfiguration of Christ.  Jesus took Peter, John and James up to the top of a high mountain to pray.  “And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Matt 9:29).  I imagine Jesus dressed for Vegas in a white sequined tuxedo with a glittering top hat (or was it a gown and tiara?).  In the transfiguration Jesus appears in his God drag.  Or maybe Jesus was God in human drag, and the transfiguration is his big reveal (like a drag queen whipping off her wig).  Drag queens transgress the boundary between male and female.  In my limited understanding, the transgender community is very diverse including straight men who cross dress, gay men who wear drag as campy fun, and men who live as women.  Jesus crosses the boundary between human and divine.  This relationship is also very complex, much more than God in human clothing or a human wearing God drag, Jesus disturbs our understanding of the relationship between people and God.  We can no longer speak of God as being “up there.”

The reason that drag queens unsettle us is not so much that the distinction between genders is blurred or confused in them, we are disturbed because their existence suggests that all our gender identities aren’t as fixed as we would like to think.  This is why the disciples freak out (“a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified”), and why we should also be unsettled by Jesus’ drag show.  The transfiguration means the distinction between the human and divine isn’t fixed.  Who do we pray to if God is all mixed up in us somehow?  What are the implications for our faith?

Published in: on February 8, 2010 at 5:45 am  Comments (3)  
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