Gay History: Parallel universe camp drag
click here to go to the main SGN website | click here to go to Mobile main page
Gay History: Parallel universe camp drag
by Don Paulson - SGN Contributing Writer

What's with these straight guys who play around with camp drag? Are they living in a parallel universe between Gay erotic curiosity and pussy envy? Whatever, sex is usually the bottom line. As Mae West said, "Sex is dirty if you're doing it right." Or is straight male camp drag plainly a mockery of women, an innocent attempt at humor or an annoying cry for attention, a getting-even for tyrannical male dress codes and macho behavior, a liberation from that pesky computer chip that demands males be all knowing, fearless and always in control, or is it a blessed relief from the limits of gender? Or is it that which dare not speak its name or she (or he) who must be obeyed? A simple spanking will determine. No, I'm not talking about you, John Travolta in a fat suit or Mark Twain in roadkill fashion, necessarily, though you never know what pink lacy delights lie under those awful men's clothes. Perhaps it is merely a safe way to explore their feminine side, whatever that is.

As drag queen Erica Shame observed, "The entertainment industry loves camp drag. In the meantime, actors get paid trillions while some poor, struggling, unappreciated drag queen who owes back rent is thrown to the streets along with her vast shoe collection, being bitter, blaming everyone, but looking fabulous!"

Most straight males in camp drag act silly and get everything wrong with exaggerated body movements and lisping voices. Although drag is more colorful than wearing a lampshade, without the help of a Hollywood costume designer or a U.S.-certified drag queen, they have about as much finesse as you can stick in your eye and still see well. Obviously drag has many faces and sexual connotations. As sex columnist for The Stranger, Dan Savage, writes, "I'm convinced that abnormal is the norm and that we're all kinksters and freaks to a greater or lesser degree."

Which brings me to my raging Company Commander and my Army boot camp during the Korean War. He was bucking for rank, so he made sure us miserable soldiers were driven to army perfection so it looked good on his record. While it was normal to hate your drill instructor for pushing you to the limit in preparation for the battlefield, his screaming for regimentation was all about him and not his troops, calling us every name in the book: girls, faggots, Queers and Gay's Victorian name, fairies. Its a miracle his shrill voice didn't bust a blood vessel. We laughed at him when his back was turned but we dared not twitch lest we being accused of playing with ourselves.

Ten years later, in 1962, my lover and I visited the Gay Madison Tavern, and who was sitting at a table with his wife and another couple but my old Company Commander. They were obviously slumming and stuck out like a sore thumb, as any Gay could spot immediately. But they were trying so hard to fit in, laughing and enjoying the dancing Lesbians (men were not allowed to dance with each other), I just about cracked up when my C.O. got up, grabbed his wife's purse and literally swished into the restroom to the amusement of everyone in the bar. I didn't think about this then, but which one are you, Mr. Army Regulation - a girl, a Queer, a faggot or a fairy? But what the hell, I got the last laugh and this was their night to remember forever in one of Seattle's foremost homo dens of iniquity. Dancing Lesbians, how scandalous.