Read an interview with Jennifer Wilson of Mardi Gras and the Federation of Gay Games HERE.
by Jim Provenzano
Olympic scuttlebutt: a group of snooty right-wing drag queens, a.k.a. the Australian Council of Churches, is up in arms over the inclusion of performers impersonating female impersonators.
The cocks in frocks on rocks in question are, of course, the characters in the hit film, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which Absolut Vodka's survey named as the most popular gay film of the 20th century, excluding the works of Al Parker.
The mainstream sports media have included a few polls asking what folks think. Most don't, from the results.
No doubt few pollsters know of an event where drag queens run the sports events; Burning Man.
I got to trek through the desert in full drag, not unlike the queens in Priscilla.
This is by no means a full account of my or anyone's Burning Man experience. If you want to fake that, watch Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Until the End of the World, each of the Star Wars, Road Warrior, and Planet of the Apes series and a few episodes of H.R. Puf N Stuf all at once.
Limiting the cultural exposition to our topic at hand the problem of drag queens at the precious Olympics, some folks in the gay sports community are upset that the only depiction of gay people this being the first one other than Greg Louganis is that of fictional drag queens and not athletes.
Well, the answer from several Olympics officials is simple. The ceremonies at the Olympics are a celebration of Australian cinema.
Don't laugh. Aussies know movies. Walkabout, for example.
Of course, post-Burnem, I just wish they'd also include, say, a few characters from Road Warrior, or even Russell Crowe in sweaty rugby gear from The Sum of Us.
I don't have a problem with the inclusion of drag queens in the Olympics. If we really get down to the point of queer inclusion, it's appropriate that a transgender atop a bus with a 50-foot Isadora Duncan-esque silver train fluttering in the breeze symbolize the utterly fabulous homo aspect of Aussie culture.
Between lifeguards showing off their buttcheeks, a gay community with far less AIDS cases due to smart government-sponsored safe sex campaigns, and the immensely queer Mardi Gras, it's obvious that a grand party awaits us all in '02 for Gay Games VI.
The problem is there is no depiction of out lesbian and gay athletes. A recent Olympics.com piece on Gay Games used pictures of drag queens at Mardi Gras and not a single athlete, gay or not.
This is stupid and lazy work on the part of Olympics.com, its editor, and Gay Games VI, which should be pumping out pictures of GLBT athletes by now, not circuit queens in silver lamι jump suits.
My Safeway purchase of Olympics USA Salutes Our Athletes includes David Pichler, but no mention of his having a male partner. Not crucial info in a 50-word bio, but either the editors didn't know, didn't care, or deliberately chose to exclude his gayness from the article.
This leaves the hundreds of thousands of GLBTQ kids reading Mommy's checkout-line impulse purchase devoid of what could have been a gay-friendly moment, letting them know that not only can queers don fabulous frocks, but simple Speedos.
And ABC, NBC, ESPN1, 2, and 3 are even worse. If you think they're going to mention the almost half a dozen openly gay folk participating at the Olympics, think again.
That's why some people are ticked off that the only gay depiction at the Olympics 2K, like most of the coverage of the last Gay Games, is of partying drunkards, costumed revelers and drug-addled freaks.
Which brings me to Burning Man's sports events!
Playa as it LayaIt took a drag queen to get me to Burning Man.
Former club fabulante Ggreg Taylor's MASHcara welcomed me and over a hundred others to his camp. With a safe space to set up our tents and socialize, setting out each day for new adventures on the vast open space of the Nevada desert near the quaint town of Gerlach became increasingly special.
If you haven't heard, along with camp and camping, Burning Man features outdoor art out the wazoo. A trapeze swing hanging inside a steel sculpture shaped like a giant rib cage became a swing set for a few boys eager to kick an inflatable six-foot dinosaur. They hung about without a care, inspiring less agile adults to enjoy it as well.
Death Guild's ever-popular Thunderdome (Buckminster Fuller meets Mister S) featured athletic events of a staged combatible sort. While a fellow wrestler and I had intimations of volunteering for a match, we'd not packed the requisite Domey gear. Next year, perhaps.
By night, the big art-cluttered playground became a zooming field of glowing bikes. Rising through, in and around impromptu sculptures became a triathlon of an entirely different sort. Instead of whoever got there first, the winners were those who enjoyed it the most.
Stamina was equally required for the trampolines at one theme camp. Dancing for hours on end after the big burn also burned calories. Fortunately my small herd of partyers packed water and munchies.
We kicked the orange glowing globes around the playa in what was the most exciting and silly match of my life. The fear of burning clothes became irrelevant, as my flame-retardant white jeans had been hand-painted with tributary flames that day.
As the balls shrunk from burnoff, it became more of a bocci match, then a spritely hackey-sack game, until the flaming balls disintegrated into mere sparks, dolefully crushed by the remaining players. A more joyful, and strangely lit, game of sport I have never experienced. It was beyond an X Game. It was a Y Game, or perhaps a Y Not.
It took a drag queen to get me off my ass and enjoy this. It took a drag queen to publish the alternative zine of the playa that deftly dissed the destructive elements encroaching on this rare and fragile cultural event.
Having raced through the desert with drag queens, having found The Zone amid a cluster of thousands of authentically freaky folk, having spied several noticeable CEOs of corporations posing as cool raver types while knowing full well that they were the people being exorcised at the Burn, I can say with calloused fingers, gypsum-filled lungs, atop an alkali-encrusted mountain bike, that yes, drag queens are integral to any full-scale sports spectacle.
If the straight-acting gay and lesbian jocks of the Olympics want to get better representation, they should speak to the hundreds of GLBT volunteers and administrators who are making this event happen.
Almost a hundred years after its rebirth from the Greek days, after countless witch-burnings and desecrations of gender variant pre-Christian gods and goddesses, shamans and dragsters are still an essential part of our culture, even in the sports arena. They make things happen and take the slings and arrows the Aberzombies can't bear.
If assimilationist jocks want more media time, they should get better publicists. In the meantime, the cameras will always focus on all that glitters.
"I had a dream," said one of the queens in Priscilla. His dream was to walk atop a mountain in the outback in full drag. He lived it.
Mine was a dream in childhood, of strange glowing creatures, neon fish, lasers and music, 3D movie classics and exploding metal dragons.
It took a drag queen to bring this dream to life. Thanks to all of you.
Oh, and to the boys who wanted the six-foot inflatable dinosaur, it's waiting for you. And I fixed the holes with duct tape.