In an essay titled "You Do What?" Eileen Dover, a Boston-area drag queen artist asks gay men an interesting question: Would you date a drag queen?
According to Dover, the answer is as painful as tucking her candy. Very, very few guys would date a drag queen, according to Dover, even though 90 percent of a performer's life is spent out of drag.
"It's not as if I'm transgendered or want to be a woman," Dover told me in a telephone interview. "During the day I sit around in a beard scratching my balls, for God's sakes! I may like creating the illusion of a female to make people laugh at night but I like being a man and all that goes with it."
That's a point easily lost in the choppy waters of the dating scene where a certain level of masculinity is expected and indeed, prized. Dover says he speaks for almost all drag queens when he says, "Doing drag is suicide on your romantic prospects. You'll end up doing anonymous sex, settling for men who fetishize drag queens or paying for it. Rarely will you end up in a loving relationship with somebody who loves you for you, no matter how butch or good-looking you are out of drag."
In his column, he recounts different strategies for having a conversation "about the D thing" with potential dates. At points it feels like you're reading about an HIV+ guy trying to figure out when's the best time to disclose -- upfront before you get too heavily invested or later when the message is heard through the totality of you as a person.
Dover decries this as a sort of misogyny, where drag queens are seen as violating an unspoken "level of tolerable femininity" in potential dates. This strikes me as far-fetched. Gay men are misogynists because they don't want to sleep with men dressed as women? Please. That's like saying straight men are homophobes because they don't want to sleep with other men dressed as women.
Dover seems to be on stronger ground when he asks why gay men seem so fearful about an illusion. "I rock a frock at night," he told me. "But when the spotlight goes out, I'm just a guy, a gay guy who wants the same things as anyone else -- love, respect, and some nookie I don't have to call trade or buy online. After all, I am a drag artist -- that's 1/10th of what I do and it's probably even less a part of who I am when not 'in character.'"
To make his point about the power of a simple wardrobe and makeup change, Dover published side-by-side pictures of himself in and out of drag. "Look at those pictures," he said. "Cast aside what you think you know about drag queens because I'll bet I'm better at fixing a tire or taking out the trash than most gay men."
He's got a point. When you look at these pictures Dover knows that our first reaction might be, "THAT'S a drag queen?" But he asks us to dig deeper and ask ourselves a more interesting question. Like, "Why do I so easily lose my attraction to this desirable man just because he pretends to be a woman for a few hours?"
Michael Alvear is the author of How To Top Like A Stud, A Penetrating Guide To Gay Sex.