Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Story Hour Triggers Some People

In response to the dire threat of drag-queen story hours, a bunch of states are trying to pass laws to make it illegal to appear in the attire of a gender other than the one you were assigned at birth. I am dying to see how it turns out. Though Republicans have enjoyed taunting people who can't define what a "woman" is, they can't define it themselves, and in fact gender is an empirically undefinable concept -- you got nothing to go on but self-report. A society adopts some self-presentation norms to signal individuals' roles, including ethnic and class norms, indicators of profession such as work uniforms or suits-and-ties etc., and norms that indicate gender, and somebody always has fun pushing against that boundary, whether it's earrings for men or tattoos for women. I saw the King of England on TV in a skirt the other day, and what do you think shaving is? Men have beards, women don't, that's how God made us. Will women be allowed to wear pants? What about men with long hair, like me? I cannot think of anything sillier to pass a law about.

And tell me, what is less threatening than a drag queen? Oh some have a dangerous sense of humor, their grasp of irony can be deadly, but really now. If you are concerned about "grooming" and the "safety of the children," then I'm not joking, you should do something about the church and the Republican Party. A guy in a party dress with false eyelashes is reading stories to kids at a library, how is that scary to anybody?

And now the Proud Boys and other violent groups are showing up with guns and disrupting the story hour. Hey, you're being trolled, guys. You're yelling cuss-words at little kids who want to hear fairy tales, do you see how that looks? You're scaring librarians, of all people. Ssshhhh. Everybody's having a good time and you're waving guns around and calling people hateful and nutty names. The whole situation is engineered to make you look stupid when you do that.

There is no detectable irony in the news that a newly elected Republican Congressman used to perform as a drag queen named Kitara Ravache. It's almost as if it doesn't really matter.

I can't even see what the issue is with drag queens, including drag queens reading stories to kids. I have never heard even a rumor of anything inappropriate at one of those events. The drag queens are there to entertain, it's fun, it's pretend, it's outrageous. I assume most are gay but that isn't even part of the deal, we can find photos and videos of a lot of straight men in women's clothing over the years, it's a standard schtick. Drag is not contagious, they aren't trying to recruit or convert anybody, it's just fun. They like pretending, they like dressing up, and everybody seems to have fun at these story hours.

Clothing is a cultural expression, it changes over time. There is nothing "biological" about any of it and God did not give orders in the Bible to dress in some way. Today's fashions and gender cues are not even "traditional." The culture decides what is appropriate but fashion emerges from individual choices and is not imposed by law, at least in a free country (ahem). Of course drag queens are intentional dress-code violators, the outrageousness is part of the show. Part of the fun of it is that it is at once shocking and also not harmful in any way. Some rules and laws exist to protect people, and ... some don't really do anything for anybody. The idea that the government wants to tell people how to dress is just amazing.

I used to think that it was a cheap shot to speculate that people who doth complain too much are dealing with their own personal impulses. There is a long tradition of anti-gay crusaders getting caught having gay sex -- we had one just last week, typical story. So it seems that, at least sometimes, these poor guys are thinking if it's not illegal, what will stop me from doing it? Whatever "it" is. Dressing in drag, maybe. Since I can't allow myself to do it, I won't allow anyone else to, either. And so these tortured moralists have to threaten other people for doing the things they can't admit they want to do.

Drag queens, by their very existence, remind us that cultural norms are malleable and arbitrary, we participate in them by choice and are actually free to be whatever we want to be. And freedom is threatening to some people.