Gender Performed - A Conversation About Sex, Gender, Theatre and Politics

Why are we so hung up on gender? Does a binary have to exist? Just how far do people perform their gender and how much is this performance influenced by social conditioning and upbringing? 


Listen in to this Youtube video to hear a smart, savvy and sensitive conversation about sex, gender, theatre and politics, with the over-arching theme of how we perform gender and how much gender, and the way we have been socially conditioned, may influence the decisions we make. 

We’re born naked and the rest is drag.
— RuPaul

Concordia University hosts three insightful and passionate speakers, with journalist Erin Anderssen taking the helm, interviewing Emer O'Toole, assistant professor in the School of Canadian Irish Studies, and Panti Bliss, Irish drag queen, gay rights activist, and gender discombobulist (aka Rory O'Neill) who first made headlines in January 2014 for calling out media stars for being homophobic.

We can be really great feminists and queers in theory… and you have all the egalitarian theory… and you know you’re going to do it, and you’re not going to care about the social structure any more and you try ….. and you’re actually incredibly embarrassed all the time…. And it’s this internalised sexism and internalised homophobia that we really need to work on breaking down.
When you decide that you’re going to try to act differently, it’s not as easy as just being brave, or it’s not as easy as just having the will, it’s really trying to change your own psychology and trying to clear yourself of this internalised hatred of your own physicality, of your own queerness, of whatever other internalised oppression you have.
— Emer O'Toole

Their conversation covers so many interesting ideas, from how far we police gender expression, to how much society has formed ideas and conventions in our minds, from both facades of femininity and masculinity and the damage it can do, expectations and conforming, to tools of 'peacock-ery', how beauty should be celebrated, from stepping right across a gender binary, to stepping out of the box within a gender binary, and the consequences of doing just that. 

As both Panti and Emer discuss, people can easily form categories in their minds. They may expect to see gender performed a certain way in certain scenarios, with drag queens on stage as their example as something categorised and accepted. Yet, when removed from the expected surroundings, when you perform gender out of the norm, out of these confined 'boxes', you can confuse people, discombobulate them, and make them question their own prejudices. People can think they're open minded, and yet so often get too comfy with their categories of gender. 

I find myself trying to make other people more comfortable with how I’m dressed by giving them the ‘box’ with me.
— Panti Bliss

Everyone is so hung up on gender. Yet maybe, it isn't something that should be categorised at all? If you've seen any interesting discussions, let us know! We'd love to hear what you think of this one. Is what you wear political? How does being "girly" get defined? What's liberating and limiting about sex and gender? Irish drag queen and gay rights activist Panti Bliss first made headlines in January 2014 calling out media stars for being homophobic.