The importance of feminine play has found its way into HBO show We’re Here (the first episode is currently free to watch).
You’ve had a long day. Take 2 minutes to watch the trailer.
Have you ever stumbled across something that triggered a full-body experience, leaving you convicted that it had the power to change our world for the better? Something that cut so deep into the truth of the human experience, you had a physical and emotional reaction to it? Perhaps it was an inspiring speech, cultural phenomenon, fictional book series, or spiritual practice.
“Drag is about empowerment.”Shangela
I cannot get enough of We’re Here.
In this reality tv series, three acclaimed drag queens–Shangela, Eureka, and Bob the Drag Queen–travel to small towns across the U.S. to dress-up everyday folks in drag and teach them (in only one week) a lip-sync routine to perform for their community. The participants include amateur drag queens but are mostly queer and straight men and women who don drag wear for the first time. They are racially and ethnically diverse and all ages.
We’re Here is about lifting up people through feminine play in their not-always-open-minded communities. You catch glimpses into the increasingly rare occurrence of people extending compassion to one another, talking face-to-face over the dinner table despite their differences, and addressing their deep yearning for acceptance from their friends, family, and community.
Many of the queer participants tell heart-wrenching stories of rejection and bullying, while the heteronormative participates explain the important of dressing in drag to demonstrate their commitment to being an ally for the queer community. Regardless, everyone is glamorized and asked to explore their own femininity. Heels, sequined dresses, and lip-syncing provide a form of feminine play that is the very definition of transformation. It’s the gateway to self-exploration and self-actualization.
Including the straight men.
An Evolved Man
I don’t know who GQ’s sexiest man alive of 2020 is, but I am going to cast a vote of enthusiasm for Clifton from We’re Here episode 2. Clifton is a heteronormative white male living in Twin Falls, Idaho who is taken under the wing of Eureka, a drag queen with an enthusiasm for teaching a country boy how to walk like a woman. Together, they practice for a dance and lip-sync routine. As Clifton prepares for his performance, he shares that earlier in his life he did not support LGBT people, until he finally got to know some people personally.
“Drag is literally about going from who you are to what you can be.”Eureka
Shortly before the show begins, the camera focuses on Clifton, whose drag name is Cleo-Pat-Yo-Ass. When asked, “How do you feel being in drag?” he responds with a huge smile, “Sexy as fuck.”
He prances around on stage to “I Love Rock ‘N Roll.” One hundred percent committed, he wears thigh-high boots, a big poof wig, and bikini bottoms with a perfect tuck. That was sexy as fuck to watch. His girlfriend watches from the crowd, ecstatic. If she wasn’t already head over heels in love with him, I think that was the moment when she knew for sure.
Clifton’s decision to perform in drag was not just a sign of solidarity for the LGBTQIA+ community. It was also a body-opening and mind-opening personal experience. Why? Because the hip swaying and sassy persona call forth the power of the feminine.
For unfortunate reasons, most straight men are averse to any display of femininity. And yet, they’re so drawn to it. A hyper masculine man longs for a hyper feminine woman often because he denies himself his own femininity. The opportunity for a powerful connection to one’s own body is lost.
The Wig That Started it All
A couple years ago, I wandered into a boutique lingerie shop in downtown Santa Cruz with a friend. The window front was decorated with fantasical mannequins dressed in sexy, flirty lingerie. I could never justify spending money on something that seemed so lovely but non-essential. I had passed by the shop on dozens of occasions but never mustered up the courage to walk inside. That day, my courage was bolstered by my friend by my side.
Soon after entering the store, our everyday worries melted away as we fixated on the costumes and toys and got lost in a time warp. Some hours later, we waltzed out of the store in wigs with a newfound confidence that carried us down busy Pacific Avenue. I named my new pink-haired persona Hot Sauce Ruby. It felt right.
(and thus began my obsession and collection of wigs)
On our way to go play darts at the dive bar down the street, my friend suddenly whipped lipstick out of her bag and insisted she apply it to my lips. Hot Sauce Ruby needed a red lip. We stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, and I gave her my best duck face. Pedestrians had to walk around us, like a stubborn rock in the middle of a stream forces the water to go around it. This was important, goddammit.
Laughing uncontrollably, we held our heads high, linked arms, and continued on our way. I swear everyone who laid eyes upon us felt either energized or envious. We had an inner feminine joy that emitted like rainbow lazors from our every pore. Something shifted in me that day as I discovered the importance of play as an adult woman.
What’s so refreshing about We’re Here is that it teaches us that drag can be a part of our everyday lives and that it’s connected to self-actualization. The glamor and hyper-femininity are really about reconnecting with yourself. What if we could re-purpose drag as a philosophy, a way of life? An exaggerated hair toss while smizing* to yourself in the mirror just might summon your long-abandoned playful side.
All I’m saying is, $35 could be well spent on a periwinkle wig.
*smiling with your eyes. Didn’t you watch American’s Next Top Model?!