Gender & Sexuality Focus Week: The D.R.A.G. Session.

Frances Sybilla Howell ( England AC 10-12 )

A docile Saturday afternoon. Pizza slices in the canteen to brighten up the morning’s hazy coastal weather. A microcosmic representation of the AC community amasses in little History Room 2; one student perched on the edge of the old fireplace to make room for others.In other locations across the castle, similar groups await illuminating talks on ‘LGB Societies and Campaigns’ and ‘Homosexuality in Nazi Germany’. Between these four walls however, John Bainton,progressivepsychiatrist with an undergraduate degree from Liverpool and MSC from Oxford, is ready, smiling warmly at the front of the audience. His smile is unmistakably that of an ex-AC student, which he later explains in his session, is something that he is.

Welsh-raised Bainton begins by presenting himself and his work.Since graduating from Atlantic College, he has gone on to study Medicine and Pharmacology, subsequently relocating to live and work as a psychiatrist in London. “I’m not a professional Drag Queen” he announces, the background images of lipstick-tinted femininity begging to differ (!) but in his time knowing and working with various professional drag artists, he has become, as proven during the afternoon, remarkably knowledgeableupon the subject. From this, he has created a thesis which he presents to the audience: the four principles of the drag queen ‘persona’ which are potentially applicable to problem-solving in everyday life.

‘Danger’, ‘realness’, ‘attitude’ and ‘grace’, D.R.A.G for short, are considered by Bainton to be imperative features to approaching the obstacles we face all the time. In a characteristically optimisticstyle, he believes that this plan can be effective in virtually every personal situation. He explains that when faced with a problem, we must look at the ‘danger’ associated with it. ‘What is the risk involved here? What is making me scared?’We must then use this to ascertain a sense of ‘realness’. ‘If I tackle this problem, what could I potentially gain? If I take this risk, how may I be unsuccessful?’ Balancing up these two views, we then change our attitude towards the task. ‘What kind of thinking would help me to complete this task? How can I go about getting started? What do I need to do?’ Finally, grace.

Grace is about knowing that your efforts may be unfruitful and that you must learn and grow from them. Grace is about knowing that if you tackle a problem successfully, you must be neither too assured nor too untouched by it: simply move on to the next danger. Grace is about knowing that ‘no Drag Queen has never not thought of themselves as fabulous’ and making one mistake doesn’t take this ‘fabulousness’ away, darling. Bainton suggests his theory as a fool-proof formula for an ability we’re always looking for: getting things done, and moving on.

Break-off discussions in small groups prove to be curious and insightful. We discuss a range of ideas in groups of young and old and the room is filled with Bainton-esque smiles. Academic, cultural and social troubles such as a Norwegian student taking Maths Higher are brought to discussion for the audience. The atmosphere in the room is one of support. As the talking continues, I then begin to assess how valid I find this certainly innovative thesis.

According to the Thesaurus on my computer, the word ‘drag’ pertains to words such as ‘effort’, ‘struggle’ and ‘strain’. Perhaps I need to revise my edition however, as the outcome of this afternoon was by no means categorised by any of those synonyms. At the very least, the session was light-hearted and informative- a consensus I also received from fellow students. However, I felt it lacked the sense of seriousness it needed to be plausible and the background evidence to show that it was more than a quaint ideal. Perhaps in the future I’ll use the D.R.A.G concept to relieve some inevitable AC stress or suffice as an IB procrastination technique. However, I question: what else?

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