Unless you’ve been living under a rock of some kind, there is no way you could have missed the fact that Aussie drag queen Courtney Act is in the Big Brother house.
In a gorgeous turn of events, Courtney/Shane (who we’ll refer to as Courtney – her drag name, for now) proceeded to gracefully engage her housemates on topics of gender identity, sexuality and marriage equality among others.
Her articulate and generous approach has not gone unnoticed by the general public, and many have taken to social media to express their admiration for her.
However, the most fascinating public response online – in my view – has been to the following interaction on Day 5, between India and Courtney, where the two are trying to clarify the difference between Trans and Drag.
Now, if you haven’t clocked on to the amazing educational and entertaining tour de force that is RuPaul’s Drag Race, I would urge in my own brogue…HIE YE TO A NETFLIX SUBSCRIPTION FORTHWITH.
For it is there, in the Season 5 finale, that Monica Beverly Hillz neatly ties up the Drag/ Trans question with brevity: “Trans is who I am, Drag is what I do”.
To wit – Drag, while often an extension or expression of gender identity, is primarily associated with a performance-based art form. Trans, on the other hand, is a gender identity; an everyday thing, that affects every part of the lives of trans individuals.
However, watching the response to the above clip on Facebook alone has been interesting, primarily because people are speaking up and saying: “Well, gender is about genitals – that’s it!”
But that’s not the whole story. So, for those who are having these conversations with others in real life and are unsure how to best unpack this – here’s a soundbite or two to take away.
While science has its place in the definition of gender, within human history gender has become synonymous with power structures, behaviours and characteristics that ultimately trap, hinder and oppress some in order to elevate the power and privilege of others.
This is foundational to understanding feminism. Therefore, as Deborah Frances-White highlighted last week on The Guilty Feminist Podcast episode 81 – Women can be strong and men can be vulnerable. Ergo, we need to accept that the way that
society has previously expected gender-based behaviours to manifest needs to be completely revised, and a scale is one way of doing this.
A scale is a tool for understanding.
Although I identify as a cis woman, I would place myself as about a 3 on this scale, because I know that I display behaviours, characteristics and personality traits that would be commonly associated with both genders. Such a scale would arguably be an
incredibly helpful and effective tool to help more people to feel accepted and understood.
Courtney Act has been through her own story of gender exploration and vulnerability, and I highly recommend – again – watching Courtney Act on Celebrity Big Brother and Season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix to witness some of it. It’s good to see men exploring their own place on the scale and talking about it so publicly.