While some refer to her as trans, and others as a drag queen, Austrian sensation Conchita Wurst has recently become a household name, and her atypical non-conforming gender appearance. Dressed in “women’s” apparel, make-up and jewellery, with her hair flowing down her back, perhaps her most distinguishing feature is the full perfectly-manicured beard that she sports. She’s sort of like the long-lost twin sister of The Hunger Game’s, Seneca Crane.
Although Conchita Wurst is a great example for this post, it isn’t really about her per se. On last night’s semi-finals episode of Britain’s Got Talent, the totally terrific twirling trio made up of Yanis Marshall, Arnaud and Mehdi served up some stiletto realness as they danced to a medley of “Bad Girl”, “Bad Romance” and “Let’s Have A Kiki”. It really was an amazing performance and those guys are unquestionably incredibly talented.
Despite the unarguable talent of individuals like Conchita Wurst and Yanis Marshall, I still think it’s absolutely astounding that they’re portrayed so casually on big-name competitions like Eurovision and Britain’s Got Talent. I know that drag performances are nothing new and will not die out anytime soon, but how many drag performers or transgender performers have been so prominently featured in the mainstream media in the last five years? I’m going to say something that, even in my head sounds insulting, though I swear that I mean no disrespect by it. I’ve always felt that the reason many people go out to drag performances – particularly heterosexuals – is because of how unusual it is in nature. They go out to enjoy the show because of its rarity and then when the show is over, they’re able to go about their daily lives with other “normal” people. I sincerely hope that I’m not being offensive to any drag queens out there, but it’s the impression that I get. People find the shows entertaining, but it’s sort of a once-in-a-while event, and then they can pretend that it doesn’t really exist out of that specific instance in which they go to witness it. However, artists like Conchita Wurst and Yanis Marshall are now displayed right there in the public eye, and I think that that’s wonderful because, while, to them, they may just be doing something that they love doing (singing, dancing etc), I believe that they’re actually creating an understated yet powerful revolution in the way we view gender norms and stereotypes.
Three guys are dancing in six-inch heels – sure, it’s fun to watch, but at the back of your mind, you can’t help but realise that they’re moving more actively and flawlessly than the usual woman does in something that is traditionally viewed as objects for women. A guy in a dress is belting out an inspirational ballad – sure, we’re marvelling at his voice, but it’s impossible not to notice his pretty feminine features half covered by a manly beard, two features that have long been held in opinion as a social and gender contradiction.
With the mainstreaming and commercialisation of transgender performers and gender-bending artists, we seem to be ushering in a new stage in the overall acceptance of diversity. We now seem to not only be recognising, but approving (however slowly) the beauty and innocuousness of persons who don’t behave within the confines of socially-determined gender boundaries.