By TYGER LATHAM
Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of D.C.’s annual High Heel Drag Race. As a long-time Washingtonian, this is an event I try not to miss. How often do you have the opportunity to see men dressed up like Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama, and the late Princess Di? In a city known for its social restraint and conservatism, the High Heel Race is a nice change of pace.
The event is a famed pre-Halloween tradition that unites the local LGBT community, along with anyone else who cares to join the festivities. One of the things I have always appreciated about this particular D.C. tradition is the open and accepting spirit of everyone who participates. There are literally thousands of onlookers, including our own Mayor Adrian Fenty, who gather to see drag queens in high heels sprint down 17th Street in Dupont Circle.
While always a lot of fun, the drag races also have a somewhat subversive undertone. Watching more than 100 men dressed up as women can challenge your conception of gender roles and identity. Are these drag queens gender-revolutionaries or gender-conservatives? Does a man wearing a dress, high heels, and lipstick destabilize gender and sexual categories or is this just parody and reinforcing the dominant binary gender roles of women as sexual objects? I’m not sure what the answer is but I can tell you that any guy willing to put on seven-inch stiletto heels and run three blocks at Olympic speed has my respect.
(Tyger Latham, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist in Washington, D.C. He has a private practice in Dupont Circle, where he specializes in men’s issues, sexual abuse and trauma, and LGBT concerns. Reach him via http://TheRiddlingSphinx.blogspot.com.)