Sex, Drag and Male Roles: Investigating Gender as Performance

Sex, Drag and Male Roles: Investigating Gender as Performance

A how-to guide from the Godmother of Drag

A wise man (well, James Brown) once said this was a man’s world. That sentiment may broadly remain the same, but one wise woman has found us women a unique way into the club. Diane Torr, an artist working in dance, performance, installation, film and video, has been offering ‘Man for a Day’ workshops to curious women across the world since the 1980s, allowing them to walk the wide-legged walk of the opposite sex.

Aberdeen-raised Diane’s gender transformation work, including her celebrated characters Hamish McAllister, Mister ‘EE’ and Danny King, is now the subject of a new book, Sex, Drag and Male Roles; Investigating Gender as Performance. So, just how does she like being dubbed the pioneer of the drag king movement?

‘It’s absolutely true,’ she says. ‘When I started teaching the drag king workshops in New York in ‘89, people didn’t know that was a phrase,’ the Canadian-born artist says.

Torr believes that the role-play and disguise element appeals to the trans-curious, as well as women concerned with personal confidence building, sexual frisson and gender subversion.

‘It’s not even something which strictly interests lesbian women,’ says Torr, who returned from New York to Glasgow in 2002. ‘It’s an incredible experience, seeing life through the eyes of a man, and any woman can appreciate that.’

Co-written with performance critic and academic Stephen Bottoms, Torr’s book, which is launched at Glasgow’s CCA this fortnight, blends her artist’s experiences and insight with a cultural history of female-to-male cross-dressing. ‘Moustache crafts’ and performance pieces will be accompanied at the launch by readings from the book, which even offers a DIY guide to gender bending your own way.

A how-to guide from the Godmother of Drag … Who could fail to be intrigued by that?

Aye Aye Books, CCA, Glasgow, Thu 18 Nov, 6-9pm, free

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