Dec 21, 2012 / By: Duane Booth / 4 Comments
Toronto drag queen Donnarama managed to get a few unhappy tongues wagging following a recent performance at the gay bar Woody’s.
Rahim Thawer, described in his byline as a social worker and community activist in Toronto, shared in the Canadian version of The Huffington Post his offense to Donnarama’s show mixing some fashion of Hindu and Muslim garb with terrorist imagery.
I didn’t see the show, so I’ll defer to Mr. Thawer’s description.
He wrote: “I’ve always thought drag was beautiful; inherently radical, expressive, fun, campy…recently I went to Woody’s and saw Toronto’s famous drag queen Donnarama performing “When I Grow Up” (Pussycat Dolls) and “Firework” (Katy Perry) in what she thinks passes as a burka, a bindi (which doesn’t make sense but OK), and a set of bombs attached to her abdomen. To up the ante, there was some actual fire on stage, coupled with gestures (or “dance moves”) that mirrored gun violence and recurring explosions.
I was outraged. I looked around to see how other people were reacting. They were recording it on their phones and coming up to Donnarama to tip her. Reward. Lots of social reward. That was the community and audience response to blatant racism and Islamophobia. To top it off, she ended by saying “Happy Hanukkah.”
At the end of the article, Thawer calls on readers to boycott Donnarama and demanded establishments at which she performs issue apologies.
It is his right to be offended. It’s his right to demand action.
Muslim is not a race or an ethnicity, nor is Hinduism. They are religions. No religion is restricted to a specific race or ethnicity. You can be a white Muslim or Hindu. So let’s finally dispense with the racism nonsense, shall we?
Donnarama and other drag queens have long used Christianity and, in particular, the Catholic church as fodder for their acts. I have seen numerous performances by drag queens fabulous and tragic simulating priests abusing little boys.
I saw a drag queen years ago don a Barbra Streisand ensemble and invoke the slaughter of Jews in Nazi Germany in a Christmas routine no less.
Crude and perhaps tasteless as these performances may be, they are intended to be provocative in a community that is condemned by every major religion. And, in kind, religion is widely condemned in the gay community.
Would Mr. Thawer have taken the same level offense to those acts? I have my doubts.
But for Donnarama’s performance? How dare someone exploit a religion’s stereotypes and dark histories for cheap entertainment in a local gay watering hole?
Clutch the pearls!
Religions are fair game for satire, scorn or even an over-the-top treatise from a man decked out in a wig, makeup and sequins. No one is required to be sensitive or supportive of another’s faith, though common decency suggest we should be such. Freedom of religion does not protect against what those not of the faith think of the faith, expressed or otherwise.
If Jews and Catholics can be lampooned, why can’t Muslims or Hindus. Why not Buddhists, Atheists or Wiccans?
Gay people should also not be as quick to condemn those who “go there” with them if we feel it appropriate to “go there” with other communities.
Far too many people walk around with the big chip of perpetual offense on their shoulders, which is a sad commentary on our world.
When you attend a drag show, you should hardly be surprised when every taboo known to mankind is ripe for the breaching. That should be abundantly clear by the fact a man is cross-dressing and lip-synching on the stage in front of you.
Donnarama is one of the most creative and fun-to-watch drag queens around. She is never shy about pushing boundaries. Most of her performances hit the mark, others, well, nice try, dear, you can do better next time.
That at least one person was offended by her performance is unfortunate, but hardly a surprise.
Regardless, neither she nor anyone else owes anyone an apology.
On the bright side, there might be more room for others who appreciate her act at future shows.
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