It’s a drag queen cruise, but don’t dress the part.
A representative for Carnival’s drag-themed cruise, which features about 40 RuPaul’s Drag Race past contestants, sent out an email a week before the ship left from the port of Miami stating that only official performers would be allowed to dress in drag and only during show times. Anybody else in drag would be forced to disembark from the ship with no refund. The email read, in part: “Carnival attracts a number of families with children and for this reason; we strive to present a family friendly atmosphere.” I would think that it might be more helpful to teach children how to use a semicolon properly than to protect them from the horror of men in women’s clothing, but that’s just me.
Al & Chuck Travel, a company that bills itself as “America’s #1 Gay Travel Specialist” and that worked in tandem with Carnival on the cruise, posted on their Facebook page that the ban was not discriminatory but instituted for safety reasons, as a “response to the post 9/11 world.” So glitter and feathered boas are now threats to national security? According to New York Magazine, what actually happened is that so many people signed up for RuPaul’s Drag Themed Cruise that it was moved onto a larger ship, on which people who hadn’t signed up for the drag queen experience would also be travelling. In the end, due to intense Internet backlash and patrons threatening to boycott, Carnival called the whole thing a “misunderstanding” and allowed drag back onto the drag cruise.
This story perfectly encapsulates the strange way that queer tropes are becoming accepted in mainstream American society without actually being truly accepted. It’s great that a cruise company that calls itself “family friendly” launched its first drag-themed cruise. But Carnival’s announcement that drag could only be worn by performers in performance spaces reveals that there are still extremely rigid expectations of how people should perform gender.
Even on Jezebel the articles that seem to support queer issues often undermine them at the same time. For example, on Nov. 30, Erin Gloria Ryan published a story with the headline “New Hampshire’s First Openly Transgendered Lawmaker Resigns Before Taking Office.” At first, Ryan’s story, seems to be a celebration of the recent strides made toward LGBT equality, beginning with the list of states that passed same-sex marriage amendments this election.
However, that even though the article is only about 200 words long, it still manages to break three of the guidelines established by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Style Guide for writing about transgender people. That’s almost a rule per sentence. Ryan refers to Loughton as “transgendered” instead of “transgender,” gratuitously mentions a time when Loughton “identified as male,” and switches between the masculine and feminine pronouns. The GLAAD guidelines are far from radical; they are cited by both the APA and the New York Times style guides.
Ryan’s article is not meant to be offensive. I doubt she thought about how the “ed” at the end of the word “transgendered” makes it seem like the person wasn’t transgender before he or she took steps towards transitioning, or how referring to Loughton as “he” in the past undermines her current identity. But it is the responsibility of writers and editors, especially at purportedly queer-friendly places like Jezebel, to acknowledge the ways in which their language reflects society’s rigid ideas about gender. As those organizing Carnival’s drag-themed cruise just learned, an empty cruise ship would have been the biggest drag of all.