Why Drag Race will one day be taught in schools

Because in the clusterfuck we find ourselves in today, there is one shining hope for the history lessons of tomorrow.

Dear future history teachers, I can only apologise. After all, we’re living in the kind of hellscape that will be impossible to break down into hour long chunks that teenagers can understand (I’m living in this mess and I can barely keep up!)

The UK is dancing an unending hokey kokey with Europe, America’s President is possibly Voldemort with a spray tan, the poorest of us have never been worse off and even the Royal Family are unable to keep their shit together. Oh, and that’s not even starting on the countless elections, riots and this tiny little thing called global warming. Future history teachers, I can only wish you good luck and god speed; those lesson plans will need a miracle.

BUT there is one great thing that has come out of this whole mess. One thing that will  make the history classes of fifty years from now not only bearable, but the best damn lesson ever. 

I am of course, talking about Ru Pauls Drag Race. 

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Same Ru, same

Ok, this might seem a little unorthodox, but don’t forget this:

There is no way that in 50 years LGBT+ history won’t be taught with the same respect that civil rights are taught in todays schools. 

LGBT+ history will become part of the curriculum. That’s just fact. It’s already starting to happen. In America several states require it to be taught and countless schools across the world eagerly embrace LGBT History Month. This is just the beginning. Pretty soon LGBT history won’t just be something you squeeze into lessons where possible, it will be a key part of what kids learn.

That’s because queer culture isn’t just a societal side piece. It’s part of who we are as a whole. It’s taken us centuries, but we’re starting to wake up to that fact. Just as with civil rights, LGBT rights aren’t ‘a nice to have’ or something only those in that community need to worry about, they effect everyone.

Which brings me back to Ru Paul’s Drag Race. It’s irrefutable that Drag Race has helped bring queer culture to the mainstream (no matter what you think on it’s representation of drag). It’s introduced millions of people to not only drag, but also major LGBT issues, with episodes frequently including debate and discussion of rights. Viewers have turned into allies, advocates and campaigners. Don’t get me wrong, Drag Race is not perfect by any means, but it’s contribution is HUGE.

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This is what societal importance looks like

Oh and to the argument that Drag Race isn’t high art enough to be remembered, take a seat. MASS ENTERTAINMENT IS HISTORY. Just ask William Shakespeare. 

Audiences to Shakespeare’s plays were anyone and everyone. The insanely rich bought pricey seats and dressed to see and be seen. Then there with those that paid a penny and flitted between watching the show to hawking merch to make some extra cash.

Those stories were for everyone. They commented on current issues and played into trends. William Shakespeare might as well have retitled Macbeth, ‘Hey King James I heard you were well into witches now, so thought you might like this.’. It’s the perfect meld between fantastical flight and commentary on history building moments. Kind of reminds you of something, huh?

Oh and that’s not even getting into the language! Just like those sonnets of yore, slang rooted from within queer culture is part of everyday language. Who knows, maybe one day teens will be forced to both read aloud from Macbeth and Drag Race.

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But said in monotone by an introverted 15 year old from Leeds

Then there’s the action off screen. The queens that are making history right now. 

Trans activists, Sonique and Monica Beverly Hillz fighting for rights for everyone in their community. Outspoken Queens like Bob The Drag Queen, working to stop the racism that many of the shows black contestants face. It’s yet more evidence that as the fight continues, Drag Race’s does too.

So yes. I do see Drag Race being taught in schools. Right alongside Marsha P Johnson, Section 28 and the Aids crisis

Drag Race will be a leaping off point, a place to start before delving into centuries of struggle and prejudice.

The introduction to the brave heroes who fought back and were all too often forgotten. A rhinestoned beacon of hope, so needed when your traversing for the seemingly endless mires of bleakness, that yes, it does get better.

More like this:

5 Drag Queens who changed herstory

Ru-Pauls Drag Race is taking over mainstream entertainment and drag is now hotter than ever. But before Ru there were these 5 Queens that changed herstory forever:

The library is open!
For knowledge…and maybe some reading

Empress Jose I

Jose Julio Sarria served in the military during the Second World. Though officially a too short to serve (standing at just five feet) Jose was desperate to sign up following Pearl Harbour; later claiming that the army overlooked his stature after he seduced a recruiting officer.

Jose Julio Sarria
To be fair, boy is a bae

Once home and discharged Jose started training to be a teacher; but as an out man in the 1950s this was -to be blunt- a fucking impossible profession to break into.

Still he persisted, earning tuition by waiting tables at San Franciscos Black Cat bar (described by Allen Ginsberg as the best gay club in the world-so you know it’s good) Jose caught the eye of authorities and in the mid 50’s was bought in on trumped up charges of solicitation. Now essentially unemployable, his dreams of teaching were in tatters.

But instead of heading back into the closet, Jose turned to drag. Learning the art from some of the Black Cats existing artists and rising to become The Black Cats headliner as Empress Jose l. He used his run in with the law as inspiration, performing his own take on the opera Carmen, which saw him run around the club fleeing the vice squad.

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Don’t pretend you wouldn’t die to see that via giphy

But satire wasn’t enough for Jose. Just like Jose had been, gay men in San Francisco were frequently arrested for solitician, gay clubs were shaken down for cash and drag queens arrested and accused of ‘intent to deceive’.

So Jose took action, he helped support those arrested fight their cases in court, led The Black Cats patrons to the jail to serenade those locked within and came up with badges that said ‘I’m a boy’ to stop harassment of other drag artists.

But this still wasn’t enough. Jose knew that San Francisco didn’t grant his community the dignity they did other citizens, and he couldn’t let that lie. So in 1961 he borrowed a friends suit and ran for San Franciscos governing body. The first openly gay person anywhere in the world to run for elected office.

United We Stand, Divided They’ll Catch Us One by One

Under this slogan Jose bought together San Franciscos LGBTQ community, urging them to fight for their place in society.

Jose lost. But the message was clear; San Francusicos authorities could no longer ignore the LGBTQ community. They had stood up, been counted and shown how powerful they were.

Bert Savoy

Bert Savoy was the Godfather of camp. A Queen whose act played on sexuality and a healthy dose of innuendo, he wouldn’t be too out of place in today’s drag landscape.

Bert Savoy
He also looks like the most fun!

In the early 20th century female impersonation was part and parcel of the popular vaudeville scene. Drag acts such as Julian Eltinge wowed audience with acts that were elegant, fashionable and feminine. When drag was humorous it tended to be based around the premise of a man who had somehow been forced/ended up dressed as a woman (as you do).

But Bert Savoy was different; he walked on stage a drag queen without the need for plot or premise, performing bawdy, brash and colourful comedy routines. Bert Savoy 2

Soon Berts’ uniqueness (nerve and talent) got him to Broadway. In 1918 he appeared as part of the renowned Ziegfeld Follies, performing alongside straight man Jay Brennan. Bertie honed the art of high camp on stage as a redhead (sadly unnamed) Queen, shocking Brennan with stories of her debuchery sodden life.

That other infamous innuendo lover, Mae West, drew much of her inspiration from Bertie. With her iconic ‘come up and see me sometime’ drawn directly from Bertie’s catchphrase ‘you must come over’. 

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Via Giphy

Sadly before Bert could bring his groundbreaking campery to the silver screen and film the Mae West Bert Savoy team up that would have completed all our lives – he came to a dramatic end. dun dun dun!.gif

In the summer of 1923 Bert took a walk along Long Beach with several other Vaudeville stars. A sudden storm rolled in and as rain started to pour Bert turned to the others, hand on hip he struck a pose and said:

Well, ain’t Miss God cuttin’ up somethin’ fierce?

Upon which he was immediately struck by lightening. And that was the end of Bert Savoy

Danny La Rue

Years after Bertie Savoy was bringing a new type of drag to the Broadway stage, in England & Ireland Danny La Rue was quite literally dragging the art out of pubs and clubs and into Londons West End as well as small screens across the country. Danny La Rue

The first drag artist to perform for the royal family, La Rue bought drag into mainstream British entertainment. Known for appearing on stage in high glamour before turning to the audience and letting out a gruff ‘wotcha mates’, he mixed glitz and comedy with winning charisma.

He elevated drag from something that was seen as a seedy music hall throwback to something everyone could enjoy. When Prince Philip (who else…) asked La Rue if he really dressed as a woman for money, La Rue shot back that getting paid was the fashion now.

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La Rue in the title role of a production of Hello Dolly

A canny business man La Re had built an empire around himself before the end of the 1960s. With a string of smash hit West End shows, was a regular on TV and ran his own club in London where he infamously fought off a punter who got a bit to handsy with Barbara Windsor, saying ‘don’t let the wig fool ya’ before punching the scoundrel out.
-side note for my American readers: Barbara Windsor is a British national treasure, though I can’t really put my finger on why, so your just going to have trust me on this one’

La Rue performing
La Rue performing in his club

As well as serving as inspiration for the likes of Boy George and Lily Savage, La Rue was also one of the first out figures in the U.K. entertainment industry. Living with his partner of 40 years Jack Hanson – an ex marine turned La Rues manager – for decades before Hansons death.

La Rue then had several short affairs before his ‘companion’ Wayne King died of AIDS, an issue La Rue spoke out about; raising countless funds for aids charities and earning an OBE from the Queen (a huge fan, even if Prince Philip didn’t quite get it)

Divine

‘Cross-dresser walks along a street. Bends down, picks up freshly laid dog turd. Eats it.’

And enter Divine

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Find me a better entrance, I dare you. via giphy

Having experienced years of bullying Divine (born Harris Glenn Milstead) finally found a home with John Waters and his band of filmmaking misfits.

With the aim of shocking the love generation Divine and Waters teamed up to make some of the provocative and rebellious films of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, with works like Hairspray and Pink Flamingoes still standing up as must see classics (for reals though, if you haven’t seen a Divine film stop what your doing right now and go better yourself)Divine, Pink Flamingoes

An outcast even with the gay community, Harris channeled everything he experienced into Divine. Having grown up wanting to be a film star like Elizabeth Taylor, Harris flipped the Hollywood dream onto its head, creating the antsiphis of the beauty that graced film and drag stage alike and birthing something extreme, fun and troubling all at the same time.

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via giphy

With comedic timing and slapstick skills for days Divine quickly became an icon on film. She broke every drag rule. Wearing figure hugging clothes at 300 pounds? Check. Wielding a chainsaw at punters? Check. Bending the rules of feminine make up? Check check check (her trademark eyebrows can still be seen in every drag club)

Divine created the cutting edge and made it clear that for a Queen to break the mainstream she needed to be her own firebrand.

Mother Flawless Sabrina

Born in south Philadelphia in 1940, Jack Doroshow would be arrested over 100 times for cross dressing and go onto become Andy Warhols’ muse, a film star and a pioneer for LGBTQ rights under the moniker of Mother Flaweless Sabrina, or simply, The Queen. Flawless Sabrina .jpg

In 1958 – before Drag was legal – Sabrina started a drag beauty pageant, The Nationals (I will add here that Sabrina was 19. thats right. 19. Please take a moment to remember what you were doing at 19…I’m guessing it wasn’t anything this badass.

Sabrina set up The National Academy, a traveling drag pageant offering many newbie queens (including Divine) a chance to step on stage for the first time. There were 46 shows across America each year between 1958-1969, with Sabrina managing a staff of over 100 to pull off such a huge undertaking (making Sabrina quite possibly the largest LGBTQ employer of the 60s) Mother Flawless Sabrina

The impact that the National Academy had cannot be understated, whilst drag had performance spaces, these were the first performances for Queens by Queens. Sabrina ensured that where possible proceeds from shows were donated into local LGBTQ communities. In 1968 the More than all of this though, Sabrina provided an environment for people to find their place within their community

“Kermit says it’s not easy being green. Well, being a queen is flawless.”

So those are just 5 of the Queens that changed herstory forever. The question now is, which Queen will be the next game changer?

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