Return of the Drag Queens
Drag-queen storytellers are hoping to go into Bristol primary schools to add some sparkle to lessons – and overcome a few ingrained social prejudices to boot.
Times Educational Supplement, 23 June, 2017
We knew them back then: drag queens in pantomime, with deep cleavages, bouffant wigs, sequins and feather boas,
on heels high, almost, as stilts. Their voices – bawdy, bass – mocked any proper lady’s or dame’s. How risqué they were popping
their suspenders, tightening their corsets, with a flash of an inner thigh. Remote as ogres and monsters in fairy tales –
they helped us handle fears and traumas; didn’t expect us to cope with their reality. Yet now they are sashaying from theatres
and music halls, faded cross-dressers as they cross old boundaries, cross-hatching traditional story books, before inscribing
new themes: boy princesses in dresses skin-tight, girl kings with moustaches.’ They cross-stitch into their performances
tots too young, even, for rôles at Christmas in live cribs. Like them, back then, we were innocent of prejudiced etymologies.
As girls we acted in Ten Little Nigger Boys in the village hall, and counted backwards with dread as we dropped down until
‘there were none’. With playgrounds full of tomboys and sissies, and hermaphrodites as imaginary friends, we didn’t need lessons
in skewered genders even if we defined boys by their crossbars on bikes, girls by tutus, blocked satin toes. The drag queens are back,
stripping blues and pinks from nurseries, encouraging same-sex crushes before their time. While their false eyelashes sweep from floors
of classrooms the ladybirds and caterpillars collected in matchboxes, we re-invent cat-calls and wolf-whistles to usher them out.