Monday, 16 October 2017
The Appropriation of Jackie Shane
Jackie Shane was gay. She was a drag queen.
It’s time to state the facts.
Lately her story has been appropriated by opportunistic academics who have misrepresented her as having been, historically, a ‘trans’ performer.
This is not simply a mistake; it’s homophobic.
Jackie Shane was, according to all witnesses, a brilliant drag singer/performer who was much beloved by the gay community in Toronto in the 60’s. She eventually moved back to her native Nashville; now her brilliance has been rediscovered and soon she will be coming back to Toronto to perform once again.
However, academics -- who often have a tendency to be out of touch with the truths of street culture -- have decided to take advantage of the resurgence of interest in Jackie Shane to advance their own trendy theories, and promulgate homophobia.
They are attempting to erase history by representing Shane’s story as that of a trans activist -- rather than as the history of a gay man and a drag queen.
Why am I concerned here with labels?
I am a gay man and a drag queen. Homophobia has increased in the last couple of years. I notice this in the context of what I call a rising ‘Fear of Drag Queens.’
Even Ru Paul has to deal with this. As in the old days of homophobia and anti-sexual feminism, drag queens are now being castigated for ‘nasty humour,’ and for ‘making fun of women,’ and even for ‘making fun of trans people.’
This is homophobic slander. Drag queens love women. They pay homage to them through drag -- and historically, they are the pioneers of the trans movement.
If Jackie Shane wishes to to become an icon for the -- very important -- modern transgender movement, more power to her.
But the historical facts are these. Jackie Shane was performing in drag long before the term ‘transgender’ even existed. When she performed in the 1960s ‘trans’ meant transexual. She represented herself as a gay man and a drag queen -- not as ‘trans’ -- and was known as such. She was a leading force -- as was Craig Russell -- in gay liberation, along with the drag queens at Stonewall.
Those are the historical facts.
And no amount of academic obfuscation can deny them.