Washington D.C. must be one of the most-LGBT friendly cities in the world. Every year during Halloween Week, the High Heel Drag Queen Race is a raucous, joyous celebration that attracts tens of thousands to Dupont Circle.
Bars and restaurants along this stretch would be overflowing with blinged-up, dressed up participants, supporters and spectators. The highlight is the race down 17th Street.
The drag queen persona is an important element in LGBT research, as part of the transgender profile. The drag queen is male, but chooses to dress up as a female as his self-expression, performance and entertainment. His forte is exaggerated femininity.
The drag queen is not only important in transgender psyche studies but has become a cultural icon that has inspired stage and screen productions, and added impetus to the crusade for homosexual rights.
The High Heel Drag Queen Race in Washington is a story in itself.
Halloween 1986, 25 participants made history when they started off from J R’s Bar and Grill and raced down 17th Street. In the 25 years following, the Bar initiated sponsorship and the Race became tradition.
In 2011, the Race attracted more money from outside, mainly from NGOs lobbying for LGBT issues, and the event matured from a little private occasion to a festival attended by tens of thousands.
I particularly like the poster that commemorated its 25th anniversary. It declares: “Crossing the line since 1986”, punning on both the race and the LGBT dilemma.
The Washington Race has also become the motherlode of inspiration for similar races across cities in the US, including the one in Soho Square in London.
We often think lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues are very removed from our daily concerns, but in this all-embracing world, every lifestyle and behavioral choice has individual effect, meaning and value.
Just because the alternative lifestyle is different doesn’t mean we should color our attitudes with prejudice. We need to practice tolerance, especially in the area of sex orientation and gender issues.
That is the reason why cities like New York, Washington, London, Paris, Beijing and Shanghai are full of vitality and charisma. It is a charm borne of acceptance and harmony, a magnetism that draws people of differing lifestyles together.
And that’s beautiful.