Thursday, March 04, 2010

One of these things is not like the others

I can definitely understand why L.A. School Superintendent Ramon Cortines was upset that students were carrying pictures of O.J. Simpson at a Black History Month parade. The man is widely believed to be a brutal murderer, and is currently in prison for robbery and kidnapping. I can also understand why Mayor Villaraigosa was upset that the children were wearing pictures of Dennis Rodman, who was recently in rehab for alcohol addiction and has been convicted of spousal abuse. However good they were as athletes, they are not good role models like the other choices, who included President Obama and Dr. King.

Like Calpernia Addams, I'm very disturbed, however, by the fact that Cortines, Villaraigosa and NAACP branch president Leon Jenkins seem to be just as upset that the students were looking up to RuPaul Charles. A school district spokesperson implied that the administration believes RuPaul, like Simpson and Rodman, is not "appropriate for Black History Month." Jenkins is quoted as saying, "These are not the people we want our young people to emulate or believe these people represent the best of the African-American community."

I honestly haven't seen too many other Black drag queens, but RuPaul is one of the best I know of any ethnic group. More importantly, aside from his talent, he has a reputation for being professional, hardworking and an all-around decent human being. I've never heard about him being involved in any instances of drug abuse or violence. Children of any race could do a lot worse than to emulate him. In that regard, he's a much better role model than Michael Jackson, who died of a drug overdose and was accused of pedophilia.

RuPaul has been something of a role model for me, too, over the years. He can look glamorous in a dress, but is comfortable being seen in men's clothes. He doesn't sweat the pronouns. His presentation is wild, sexy and provocative without being clownish or degrading. And for a guy who's pushing fifty, he still looks damn good, even without the airbrushing.

It remains to be seen whether this was a deliberate racist joke on the part of three white teachers, or a fumbled attempt to appeal to things that impress kids. But I know that if I were a kid at that school grappling with transvestite or homosexual feelings, and I heard people like Leon Jenkins lumping RuPaul in with O.J. and Dennis Rodman, I'd be pretty crushed. No wonder the suicide rate is so high.

I would like to see Cortines, Villaraigosa and Jenkins retract their condemnations of RuPaul. I hope that TBLG leaders will let them know that this kind of homophobia and transphobia is not okay. I hope that some national Black and Hispanic leaders will also come out in support of RuPaul, and of cross-dressers everywhere. We can be good role models.

Update: the World of Wonder blog has more on RuPaul and the homophobic Ramon Cortines. I should also point out that Rodman has done drag too, much more clownishly than RuPaul.

No comments: