Scotland’s first ‘drag school’ sells out
A course teaches 11 to 18-year-olds how to create a persona, apply makeup and the history of drag. Organisers say the sessions help children explore their true personalities.
“You can use drag to explore anything you want to,” said Natalie Doidge, the organiser of what is thought to be Scotland’s first summer “drag school” for teenagers, which opens its doors in July after facing down controversy.
“Drag isn’t limited to men dressed as women … and this course opens it out to anyone who wants to try it. It’s an exploration of [oneself] – especially for young people at the upper end of high school, when your life is just beginning and you’re thinking about who you want to be. Gender is a performance, after all,” she said. Doidge, 23, has devised the five-day course as part of Dumfries Youth Theatre’s summer programme. She is a trainee producer at the theatre and wants to create opportunities for young people living in rural areas like the south of Scotland.
The course is now sold out, with half the places taken up by girls. It includes sessions on creating a persona, makeup, performance and the history of drag artists going back to the Stonewall riots (a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBT community which erupted in New York on 28 June, 1969 – ed.). The workshops will be led by Drag Queen Jordy Deelight.
The youth theatre, supported by the community platform Big Burns Supper, offers summer courses in comedy, dance and costume design as well as the drag school for those aged 11 to 18. Graham Main, the chief executive of Big Burns Supper, underlines that even for primary schoolchildren there is an accepted and appropriate level of LGBT discussion within the curriculum. “We’re experienced youth workers, and we’re working in primary schools on a weekly basis,” he says. “So we have a thorough and trusted awareness of the approach required. … This summer event is just about putting a wee flag up to say: ‘It’s OK to be in the chess club, and it’s OK to be in this one too.’”
The event and the organisers’ ideas, however, attracted a barrage of criticism. A significant number of online comments raised concerns about safeguarding and sexualising of children, with some referring to entirely false tropes about LGBTQ adults exploiting educational spaces to “groom” younger people.
King Dalby, the other organiser of the event adds: “A lot of the complaints were from people who didn’t really understand what drag is. People have this idea that drag is offensive, but it’s not – you can make fun of the ridiculous stereotypes.”