A video posted by Stars & Stripes (below) is going viral on the web, and it features military servicemembers participating in a fund-raising drag show at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.
There are a few comments to put this in perspective. One, we sailors always knew there was something a little funny about the Air Force. OK, OK, cheap shot. Moving on.
Two, it wouldn’t be the first time military members have dressed in drag for entertainment. The difference now is that it’s being offered as serious drag performance: as representative of the personal and aesthetic orientation of some servicemembers.
It actually happens from time to time in events like a Navy carrier air wing’s “Fo’c’s’le (forecastle) Follies,” a quasi-official commemoration that occurs at the end of a designated period of flight operations on deployment. Junior officers from the squadrons get together and make colossal fools of themselves to entertain their shipmates. The festivities are held in the part of the ship known in modern seagoing parlance as the fo’c’s’le, way up forward, but below decks, in the bow. Now and then, a JO in the Follies has taken one for the team by doing a terrible impression of the opposite sex. You might have to just see it to realize it doesn’t qualify in any way as a drag “performance.” Think fraternity hijinks, but with more engineering geekiness involved.
Three, this may be the first video of actual troops doing full-on drag performances. But it’s not the first officially promoted drag-queen performance at a military base. Los Angeles Air Force Base may hold that title, after hosting the drag act “Jewels and the Brunchettes” for Diversity Day on August of 2013.
But four, there is a limit to what soldiers, sailors, and airmen can see their fellows – or their NCOs or officers – do, and still retain respect for them. The performances at Kadena Air Base were probably pretty tame, as drag acts go. That’s what it looks like from the video. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to open wide the spigot for drag expression in the military.
If you don’t know that, you just aren’t old enough to. There should by no means be torches and pitchforks against drag shows. But the bottom line is that it will never be important to the security of the United States for our military to be a friendly, approving atmosphere for drag performances. Making it a priority to cultivate such an atmosphere is very misguided policy, especially when the 800-pound gorilla of game-changing defense cuts is in the room.