This statement was written by EUSA’s LGBT+ Liberation Group in response to Free Pride Glasgow’s decision to not invite cisgender drag acts to perform at their event, and the ensuing debate which has taken place on social media and in the national press.
EUSA’s LGBT+ Liberation Group wishes to extend a message of solidarity with Free Pride Glasgow, against the backlash they have received over their decision to back the wishes of their autonomous trans & non-binary caucus, and disallow drag performances from cisgender performers. (Please note, this is not a restriction on the clothing or gender expression of anyone in attendance, only acts booked for performance).
It is important that we do not conflate trans people – people incorrectly assigned a gender at birth that they are not – with drag acts, which are simply costumed performers who may be trans or cis.
We understand that, while drag has a long history both as the only performative art owned wholly by the queer community, and as an important form of protest against normative gender stereotypes and expectations, the current drag community has some deep issues that need examining and correcting.
Historically, drag was significant for people who would now be considered trans, long before we had a more nuanced understanding of the distinctions between sexuality, gender and expression. These were people for whom drag performances were the only way they could express their true selves. We also understand that the ideas of and relationships between sex, gender and expression are socially constructed, and drag can have other meanings and interpretations in different cultures and time-periods. However, it is important to recognise that the potential message that drag expresses can depend on the performer.
The same drag act performed by a cis person can be offensive and damaging to the trans community in a way that a trans act would not be.
Unless done carefully, cis drag queens can be seen to parody and caricature femininity and the struggle that trans women face to be recognised as their true selves.
This perspective is key to understanding why this is not a problem with drag or the drag community as a whole, but is a broad problem that any drag queen may fall foul of whether they intend to or not.
It is similarly important to notice that a significant number of cis drag queens are guilty of deep transphobic and misogynistic attitudes and actions. One need only examine the controversy over RuPaul’s inexcusable use of various transphobic slurs to see that this is not an uncommon occurrance.
Finally, it is most important to recognise that this is a decision that came about entirely from an autonomous trans and non-binary subgroup, in which a significant number of transfeminine people expressed that they would feel uncomfortable and unsafe and would be unable to attend the event if cis drag acts were going to be performed. When mainstream Prides worldwide sideline or ignore trans struggles altogether, it is important that there are some groups and spaces where the needs and desires of the trans community are put first, above the needs of the more widely catered to community of cis gay men, who make up a significant proportion of the excluded drag acts.
Edinburgh University LGBT+ Liberation Group welcomes the decision made by Free Pride Glasgow.