Stone: Identifying as trans, performing the role, are different situations

Letter to the Editor

I am writing in response to the article, “Student performers shine at Drag Ball.”

I have attended CWRU Drag Ball three years in a row, once as an audience member and twice now as a competitor. To say Drag Ball seeks to break transgender stereotypes is a problematic statement. While some drag performers identify as trans, performing in drag is not synonymous to identifying as trans. Drag is a performance where gender is exaggerated and satired for the purpose of entertainment. A person who is transgender is a person whose gender identity is different from the gender that society assigned them at birth. One is a performance; the other is an identity. To compare the two is to imply that that people who are transgender are just pretending to be another gender. This problematic conception of the trans identity leads many states to pass laws forcing people to use the restroom coinciding with their sex assigned at birth.

What I find equally problematic about the article is what aspects of the show it highlighted and what aspects it ignored. Vivi Vendetta’s performance wasn’t just witty sexual innuendos. She began her performance with a speech on how society views and treats the feminine. Her point was that it took courage to present as feminine in a society that often violently hates the feminine. When Stone Hardman ripped off his shirt, he wasn’t just revealing his bound “feminine parts” (they’re called breasts, if you really must write about them); it was an act of defiance. It is illegal for females, but not males, to be topless in Ohio. Ripping my shirt off was a criticism and challenge to gender and the laws surrounding it.

CWRU Drag Ball is a remarkable event, but not for any of the reasons listed in the article. The inaccuracies and mistakes in the article are unfortunate, but they also demonstrate what happens when we approach unfamiliar situations without understanding the privilege we bring to it.

Jillian Stone
Fourth-year student