Lady Gaga‘s VMA appearance as alter ego “Jo Calderone” has been getting quite a bit of attention in the LGBT blogosphere this week. Naturally, MTV News did a round-up of the more complimentary side of things, and while I think it was a bit dodgy to dismiss her critics as “activists who see a disconnect between the pop star’s outspoken activism and the fact that she is not gay herself” (the criticisms go way beyond that), they did find several voices from the LGBT community who had thoughtful things to say.
“There is barely any visibility for FTM, drag kings and lesbians on television. There is a huge imbalance,” NYC drag king and host/creator of the “Mr. Transman” pageant Murray Hill told MTV. “For Lady Gaga, the biggest pop star in the world, to go on TV with millions of people watching in drag as a man and then to actually say ‘lesbian and transgender’ live is undeniably powerful and creates change. She ups the visibility big time and gets the language into the mainstream.”
Personally, I agree that drag kings deserve more play in the media, and I also loved the fact that she said the word “transgender” out loud. But I’m not sure what this performance in particular had to do with transgender people. After all, she’s hardly the first cisgender (a non-judgmental term for “not trans”) performer to dress in drag for a performance. She was not pretending to be a transgender person; she was pretending to be a biological male. (Not that I think it would’ve been better had she pretended to be trans.)
LOGO’s John Polly addressed this when he said, “I don’t know that it was even a statement on the LGBT community; it’s just a character she wanted to play. But since we don’t see [drag kings or female-to-male transgender persons] much, we perceive it that way.” Ding ding ding!
The lesbian-focused blog After Ellen was more unreservedly upbeat. Writes AE blogger Drummerdeeds:
Lady Gaga VMA Outfits Terribly Stupid