I can’t remember what the #1 ‘must do’ was in the recent on-line article, How To Be Gay in 10 Easy Steps, which was loosely based on David Halperin’s book How To Be Gay. And I didn’t bother to read suggestions 3 through 10 either. The author lost me with his second one, which was ‘Dress in Drag.” Before I rip him a new asshole, which considering his fem leanings he’d probably enjoy, here’s what he had to say on the subject, complete with typos:
“Even if it’s just once for Halloween, go out in the world wearing the clothing of the opposite gender. It will it unleash a personality you didn’t even know you had in you and it will make you OK with femininity. So many gay men are afraid of even the slightest bit of swish being detected. “No fems,” has been branded into all of our mentality. But one night when the femme is in total control will never make you fear it again. And it will put you in touch with the brave bottle throwers who started the Stonewall Riots back in the day.”
A few minor points (aka ripping him a new asshole): First, drag queens need to quit trying to own the Stonewall riots. Pissed off lesbians were equally represented that night, and by all accounts the local (youthful) homeless rent boy population outnumbered both. Following this author’s logic then, your #2 way to learn how to be gay is go live in a park and sell your ass to strangers. Which is something I’d gladly embrace before I would dressing up in drag.
Second, I am in touch with my feminine side, it just doesn’t care to wear Manolos or a feather boa. This author’s idea is not novel, fems frequently attempt to convince the gay community that if everyone went girl for a while the world would be a better place. Okay. Fine. Tell ya what. As soon as all the fems of the world embrace their masculine side and spend the day acting like a man, I’ll give their girly crap a try. And that’ll happen as soon as pigs fly (which should not be confused with the flying farang of Pattaya).
I don’t have a problem with drag queens, though I also don’t find them anywhere nearly as humorous as they think they are. But I do have a problem with the idea that all gay men want to be women. Even if it is just for a night. And I find it ironic that both the fem part of the gay community and right wing nutcase homophobes are both most comfortable with gays being portrayed as gender-confused creatures. I know who RuPaul is but I’ve never watched her Drag Queens on Parade reality tv show. Straight friends – those who are quickly on their way to ‘barely an acquaintance’ status – are amazed that I don’t have the entire ten season boxed set. It’s not really their fault, the gay community is to blame for fostering the idea that all gay men love the drag queen. We aren’t all into watersports either. And as long as I’m setting the record straight, most pedophiles are straight, not gay. Unless you are in Sunee Plaza.
Hollywood, thanks to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, also loves portraying drag queens as brave heroines, slightly tragic, who by the movie’s end embrace their inner woman and find acceptance from the larger community. But then Hollywood wants you to believe that Sylvester Stallone is still an action star too. Being a drag queen has nothing to do with bravery. Refusing to buy into the drag queen mystique does. Even if your mannerisms fall on the effeminate side, being gay does not mean you have to cross the line and take a stab at cross dressing.
That’s one of the things I like about Thailand. If you stay clear of small towns devoted to the commercial sex industry where western men who couldn’t cut it in their own country tend to congregate to live out their golden years bitching about their life, you’ll never run across a drag queen in the Kingdom. Katoey, or ladyboys, however, are more numerous than male masseurs fondled by John Travolta. Unfortunately Thai gogo bar owners seem to be just as confused over the role of ladyboys vs. drag queens and their place in the gay community. And I blame the touri from the west and their mistaken belief that guys dressed as women are what the gay community is all about for that.
I’m no more a fan of ladyboys than I am of drag queens, but I do respect them. I’m too frightened of them not to. Any man willing to have his dick cut off, regardless of how he self-identifies, deserves respect ‘cuz that’s some truly macho shit. So maybe my challenge to the fems of the world who want me to try drag should instead be I will as soon as you try The Operation. (And the bell curve just took a bone jarring bump upward.) Ladyboys are true to themselves. Drag queens are fakes. Not to mention annoying. The two should not be confused with each other No matter how annoying ladyboys working the streets of Bangkok can be.
Regardless of how often ladyboys appear on stage at Bangkok’s gogo bars, they are not gay. Every Thai knows this. It’s not by accident that the bars staffed by ladyboys for those punters who prefer a little dick with their tits are all located in the straight sex touri entertainment districts either. The only customers who like seeing them take the stage at gay gogo bars are locals who hope to attain ladyboy status themselves one day, and the gay westerner touri who think men dressed in drag is what being gay is all about and who can’t tell the difference between a woman who is just not quite there yet and a poser taking a turn at playing transvestite.
As many times as I’ve been to Bangkok I still have a long list of places I’ve not yet been to that I want to see, and things I’ve not yet done that I want to experience. A ladyboy extravaganza, like the Calypso Cabaret, is not on that list. I can see all the ladyboys I want just strolling through MBK. I don’t need to spend an evening squeezed into a small cabaret filled with straight touri out for a risque night in The Big Mango to watch a bunch of ladyboys acting like drag queens. And yet those shows are for many gay touri, who should know better, one of the ‘must do’ activities when visiting Thailand. I don’t get that. I thought gay men were supposed to be interested in men. Not women who once were.
My friend Noom makes his living off of gay men, loves lesbians, but never mistakes a ladyboy for a gay. As often as he comes up with places for us to go and things for us to do and see, a ladyboy cabaret has never made his list. Not out of prejudice, but rather he just doesn’t acquaint my being gay with a desire to experience a ladyboy review; he doesn’t consider a ladyboy show to be something a gay man would want to see. That’s what gay gogo bars filled with naked male hunks are for. Unlike touri from the west, he doesn’t confuse being gay with a love for drag.
Not that he’d object if I suggested we go to a ladyboy show. I know in doing so he’d be appreciative of their fabulousness and would sit there murmuring, “Beautiful!” as each took the stage. That alone is almost tempting enough for me to put up with an evening of ladyboys; ‘beautiful’ is one of my favorite English words heard from his lips because he embellishes it with a few extra syllables that gives the world definition. The fact is, Noom likes ladyboys. Or more properly Noom likes how much ladyboys like Noom.
On every trip I make to Bangkok, we stop in at the shop of a little ladyboy who sells cell phones and electronics for her to clean Noom’s gadgetry and to load up one of his iPods with new Thai tunes. For free. Getting something for free as well as having someone drool over your hotness is one of Noom’s favorite experiences. And that highlights the other side of the coin: ladyboys are into men; not fem gay guys. Because, regardless of how far along in their pursuit of womanhood they are, or are not, they are women. They are not gay men. All ready forced to play a role in life the last thing a ladyboy wants is to have to play fag hag too. And I’m sure those unfortunate to have seen a fat farang don a wig and ball gown in their effort to be gay are not amused.
It’s time for the gay community to quit embracing the gay man as a drag queen stereotype. And it’s time gay visitors to Thailand quit bothering the poor ladyboys. Prove that you do in fact know dick about being gay and spend your holiday time checking out the naked hunks on stage instead of those, whom if you really get off watching, would qualify you as straight instead.
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