It’s a Monday night and I would bet all the Comme I own that I’m not the only queer with their eyes glued to the newest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m probably not the only girl wishing she could strangle Gia Gunn (however much I admire her contouring skills) and become Milk’s new best friend.
The look could just as easily resemble something between Bob Mackie, cosplay, and prototypical Harajuku street style:
Most bands had members with purposefully androgynous or feminized appearances. They nearly always wore thick makeup and elaborate costumes. Often they appropriated or responded to the classic bishōnen (“beautiful boys”) trope that has existed in Japan for over a thousand years. Sometimes particular members played the designated “girl,” and occasionally they approached an uncanny valley of realism.
I was their target audience. Surely the foreign language and distant locales added another layer of exoticism or unattainability that wouldn’t exist if I fixated on some American celebrity, but visual-kei’s target audience is the same teeny-bopper crowd that drools over boy bands here.
A similar phenomena, especially in regards to fan base, lives in the form of the (again, Japanese) all-female Takarazuka Revue. The troupe has made great efforts to sanitize its image since it began in the prewar era, but the obsessive idolatry of women in heavy drag by other women is undeniably sapphic by nature.
Since I turned 12, gay marriage has been legalized in 17 states and endorsed by our highest elected official. Narratives by, for, or about gay men are everywhere. They have earned Academy Awards, been the stars of reality shows, and transformed many a straight dude’s closet. They are accessible on the most basic level to young boys everywhere caught in the throes of sexual discovery.
And for gay girls? Even though Ellen Page came out last month after years of speculation, the prospects for pin-up material are still pretty dim. Grace Jones and Jenny Shimizu are far too-dated models for tween affection, the decidedly very adult Lip Service was cancelled last year, and the few young lesbian females left in popular culture are almost universally played by femme-presenting straight women. Who, then, do they turn to?
I wouldn’t be surprised if queer and questioning girls still look towards male androgyny as objects of desire or gender representation. They might be fantasizing over effeminate K-pop idols instead of J-rockers (these kids today), or they might even be dreaming of Raja or Manilla Luzon. But just as it was when I was in middle school, that’s sort of all there is.