Trans Inclusion: Stop with the DRAG QUEEN Bingo already!

ByJoanne Lockwood

Trans Inclusion: Stop with the DRAG QUEEN Bingo already!

Q: How can businesses be more LGBTQIA+ inclusive?

I was at a conference recently for Diversity and Inclusion Leaders where this very question was raised. Me, being the rebel I am, threw a lesser discussed question to the panel…

Q: How can businesses be more trans inclusive?

The two questions are subtly different. All subsets of the LGBTQIA+ community have different needs and require different approaches to inclusion. Inclusion of sexual orientation may look different than inclusion for gender identity.

It came as no surprise that the response from the panel was to provide ‘Drag Queen bingo and karaoke’ at their monthly event for queer staff.

Drag Queen bingo.

Really?

I’m not saying drag events aren’t fun. The likes of Ru Paul’s Drag Race has done wonders for LGBTQIA+ awareness, they are certainly valid forms of entertainment.

But, I’m talking about true inclusion for trans people. Putting on drag events DOES NOT mean that you are being inclusive of trans people.

Let me explain.

DRAG IS A PERFORMANCE

It is an artistic expression. Many (not all) people who perform drag identify as cis, they are the gender they were assigned at birth, rather than trans. It’s an art form that has grown up in the likes of gay bars, where the performer is often very flamboyant and exaggerated in their expression.

Drag can be seen as an amplification of femininity rather than form of femininity.

Speaking from my own perspective as a trans woman, I don’t see drag as a representation of my experience.

I don’t see myself as a performance. I don’t myself as playing dress-up.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that drag is harmful to the trans community, but I did have to think long and hard about whether drag performances can create a misrepresentation of trans identities.

My clothes, my style, my make up, doesn’t define me. I am a woman even when I’m stark naked.

Drag is an expression, not an identity. life isn’t a performance. ‘Female’ describes my identity, not a persona. Drag is a misrepresentation of who I am.

MOVING BEYOND DRAG QUEEN EVENTS

What I want to see is businesses thinking beyond gay style clubs and queer culture in that way. The aim for many trans people, myself included, is to get on with life and to be perceived as a cis person.

My goal is not to hang out in ‘safe’ queer only communities, I want to be able to feel safe and accepted in the ‘cis-straight’ world that I was in before my transition without being called out as ‘different’. I want to be included, not stereotyped.

Businesses have to recognise that the needs of some trans and Non-binary people are different from those who want to be overt and open about their sexuality. It’s just not the same. Not all of us want a disco or a party. Some of us would be happy just having a drink with friends at Wetherspoons!

UNDERSTANDING THE NEEDS OF TRANS AND Non-binary PEOPLE

Getting back to my original question: How can businesses be more trans inclusive? Here are some ‘non-drag party’ suggestions for businesses:

  • Make an effort to understand the toxicity and the negativity in the media surrounding trans and Non-binary people.
  • Educate your staff on the microaggressions we face daily, and actively call them out when you see them.
  • Be aware that trans and Non-binary people have psychological and physiological challenges that may need extra support, ranging from family breakdowns to navigating complex medical systems.

Whilst I can only speak for myself when I say yes! We all could do with a good night out every now and again, but please know that trans inclusion goes far beyond well-meaning drag bingo nights!

Joanne Lockwood (she/her) is an Inclusion and Belonging Specialist with SEE Change Happen and works with organisations throughout the UK, Europe, and Elsewhere – speaking, training, and consulting.

She can be reached via https://seechangehappen.co.uk

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About the author

Joanne Lockwood administrator

SEE Change Happen: Transgender Awareness & Inclusion