Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Enviable Oasis

     I have a dilemma: what do I say/how do I respond to last night’s film, Paris is Burning? In class, it was mentioned that the transgender community is becoming more of a norm. Well where I grew up, the transvestite community is just as much of a norm as a community constructed of orange people would be. In other words, that lifestyle is definitely not a norm, not yet anyway. I do think it is slowly but surely being brought to the surface, especially with documentaries like this being shown.

      One thing that really caught my attention in this film was the fact that these people had a place to go—a place where they could express themselves and be true and be real. At the balls, they were allowed to be what they could not and earn titles and respect while doing so. They couldn’t do this out in the real world, but at the balls they were given freedom and released from the world’s constraints. I think this is something that anyone would envy. No matter what our sexual, religious, or political orientations are, at some point, we have all felt constricted in some way. Maybe it’s a constant thing or maybe its not, but to some degree, we can all relate to the desire to free yourself from other people’s opinions and judgments. Granted, we may not have been ostracized from society the way this community has been, but to some level, everyone can relate.

      Ultimately, I was envious of that fact that they had a place of true freedom—a place that they could all their own and be who they truly were. How many of us are ever truly able to let go, and be our real selves? We live in a world where to be different is to be weird, and to be weird equals unaccepted. I know we have talked about how it is cool to be different, but I think that has constraints. If you are different, you cannot be too different, or you become odd and unacceptable. So where do we draw the line between being cool different or being weird? These men and women were not accepted by society, so they did the best with what they had, and created a place of respite from the judgment that they faced out in the world—a place where to them, they were real.  I do not have that place, and there are very few people in my life that I feel that comfortable with. These men and women had found an ultimate treasure, whether they realized it or not, and I was truly envious of them.


  1. The scene is vital to cool's survival. Whether it is a smokey jazz club or a fashion show or a rave, cool is rarely without a physical birthplace. Often then the idea that cool dies when a place is destroyed or corrupted by outsiders makes these places holy.

    You should totally look into historically cool places and see if you might have fit into any of them, from CBGB to the Haight Ashbury district.

  2. I appreciate that you were able to really think about the film and find a way to identify with it. You're absolutely right that so many of us feel restricted in some way shape or form (career choices is a major one among college students). We all try to find ways to stop thinking about what we can't be as a defense mechanism. It would be depressing if all we could do is think about what we weren't and how we wanted to be that.

    But that's the situation that these men, transgendered and not so, find themselves in when they go to the balls. It is a direct confrontation of the fact that they are not these people because the have to go all this trouble only to look like who they want to be - yet, simultaneously, it is a method of escapism, outside of the grittiness of their dim realities.

    Good job, Emileigh.