Commentary: Drag Queens Are as American as Apple Pie

Kinky Boots causes an outrage at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Posted: 12/02/2013 01:30 PM EST
Billy Porter

This weekend, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade caused an uproar. Not over the lack of Native Americans as Native Americans in the parade. Not the problematic worship of colonizing indigenous people. Not the wild commercialism and violence of Black Friday. Nope, the controversy was over drag queens!  

During the parade, gender-bending "mens" in heels from Broadway's Kinky Boots sang for their life about being your authentic self and loving your community with the song "Let Me Raise You Up." The song, which enraged some viewers, included lyrics like, "Celebrate you/To elevate you/When you struggle to step/We'll take a helping hand."  

In 2010, Kanye West performed his song "Lost in the World" at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He rapped: "Let's break out of this fake a** party/Turn this into a classic night/If we die in each others arms, we still get laid in our afterlife." The same critics who protested the Kinky Boots performance this year remained curiously silent during West's performance. Are those lyrics family friendly?  

Broadway shows always join the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year, the most talked about Broadway production wasn't Mary Poppins or Spiderman — it was a show centered around a drag queen. A Black drag queen! It seems that seeing Billy Porter, who plays Lola, in a lace-front that would make Beyoncé jealous and kicking in thigh-high red boots like a Rockette with some soul, disturbed some of America. The protests send a clear message: Drag queens might be OK for RuPaul's Drag Race or a Tyler Perry film, but not for Turkey Day in Manhattan.

As we all know, a safe place to be homophobic and racist is the comfort and anonymity of social media — where a hubbub of ignorance was babbled on Twitter and Facebook. One user ranted, "After watching most of #MacysThanksgivingDayParade, I realized how much our country has declined. Kinky Boots disgusting and wrong!" Another wounded soul cried, "Do the transvestites of Kinky Boots really belong in the Macy Thanksgiving day parade?" Yes, they belong because acceptance and drag queens — who have been around since the beginning of time — are as American as apple pie.

For those who have not seen Kinky Boots, the sole message is love. Lola, played by Porter, is rejected by his father for his gender-bending ways. But the rejection he experienced doesn't just affect him, but his entire community. Prejudices are not insular; prejudices are infectious. In a time when families supposedly come together to bond, Kinky Boots is a relevant story for all Americans. Love and acceptance goes beyond wigs and heels, it goes right to your soul.  

Isn't a show like Kinky Boots  — with a song titled "Let Me Raise You Up" — exactly what we need? Considering our time of bullying that results in suicide, young men murdered by vigilantes and shootings across America, we could all use an uprising of joy. Kinky Boots isn't about sex, but about the happiness you receive when you love outside of the boxes. Give thanks to love!

BET.com is your #1 source for Black celebrity news, photos, exclusive videos and all the latest in the world of hip hop and R&B music.

Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

(Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

From Our Partners

Related Topics