I was fortunate enough to see a screening of “The Queen of Ireland” at the Denver film festival this weekend. I find myself gobsmacked by the sheer audacity that a drag queen can bring to the table.
Panti Bliss (Rory O’Neill) has become a symbol in Ireland for equality and fairness. Armed with the tenacity of survival and fueled by a few decades of entertainment savvy as well as an integrated refusal to be bullied, Panti stood strong when the dogma of religion reared its head to say that LGBT human beings don’t deserve the same rights (marriage and parenting) that most do and won the hearts of the Irish people and inspired their minds when a referendum for marriage equality was put for a national vote.
All the while, Panti remains Rory O’Neill when the cameras are off. Born in a small Irish village known for its rough attitudes toward LGBT people, Rory left his hometown at a young age to become first a student, then a globetrotting crossdressing entertainer, an HIV survivor, a philanthropist, and a reluctant advocate. He changed not only the loves and lives of his homeland, but changed the very same things in his village as well.
The film finishes with him giving an appearance (in drag) to a packed house in a tire store in the village where he grew up. This is perhaps the most poignant part of the film for me. To see Panti standing in a room rife with the source of his childhood shame, experiencing the bliss of the transformation of shame to acceptance. It is remarkable.
I am posting a video of Panti’s “Noble Call”given at the National Irish Theater after an earlier television appearance caused a kerfuffle which resulted in the tv station receiving a threat of a lawsuit from the religious faction of Ireland if it were shown again. This talk is put with a soundtrack provided by the Pet Shop Boys.
there has been much deserved press for a speech by irish drag persona panti bliss. i must say i have listened to it about 10 times or so and i find it to be plugged into the very soul of the conversation about lgbt rights in the 2nd decade of the 21st century of our human culture.
there is very little blame or projection about the responsibility of the oppression still felt among a good portion of our community. for me it really touches upon some basic construct of the modern gay male psyche at least those over 40. it seems a cycle we grow up feeling shame about who we are or how we are we are, then we are grown and we often go crazy and taunt each other and watch each other trying to shake that very shame. and that feels oppressive.
i have blogged often about shame and shame-based trauma. this is the cornerstone of many men’s foundation. as is lovingly laid out in alan downs’ short book “the velvet rage”. the ongoing process of being different, loved ones realizing we are different and slightly turning away we, in turn, feeling that turning away and internalizing it, knowing that our loved ones are treating us differently, which causes some of us to feel unlove-able which we also turn inwards to hide, and then spend a good deal of the rest of our lives playing out in a myriad of phases and dramas trying to erase that unlove-able, working through the anger of distancing, and coming to terms with being different and letting go of feeling unlove-able.
the advent of gay marriage is perhaps the next biggest gain for the lgbtq community. no we shouldn’t create an ideal to model heterosexual relationships and that is not the only aspect of marriage equality. what matters is that we are love-able, and that the world at large accepts and insists that we are love-able even if we are different. and then perhaps this ongoing dance of being different and slightly being rejected by our family and friends can come to an end. we can be accepted as we are and fight different internal battles just like our non-gay contemporaries.
i absolutely love the chutzpah that panti lassoes in her talk in the theater. i have gratitude and respect for a truth coming so quietly and so candidly.
here is panti bliss’ speech that has been set to a rhythm track a la the pet shop boys. i adore this just as much.