Dina Brown

A self-portrait experiment circa 1994

My name is Dina Brown, and I'm a female persona.

As an adolescent, drag queens scared me. I felt like queens were a cliche of gay culture that painted a threatening or stereotypical picture of what it meant to be gay to my parents and friends. Now I know that those fears were based in a sense of personal dis-ease as I tried to reconcile my own sexuality, gender identity, and performances of gender with cultural expectations.


Trying out drag for the first time was both liberating and revealing. Under the mask of  Dina Brown, what came out at first was all the repressed anger I had in my life. Dina gave me an outlet to express the rage I’d kept bottled up trying to keep a veneer of pernicious positivity and people pleasing in my daily performances as “myself.”


After I hit bottom and got rid of secrets in my life (learning to reach out and ask for help, an ear, or a second opinion has been a real liberation) the role of Dina changed for me. I found I could dress up and go out as Dina and have this feel like  a familiar second skin, rather than an externalized character.


This too has led to challenges. I’ve found that when people encounter a man in drag, they often expect to be entertained or more insidiously, they feel one’s body is suddenly fair game–as though this is surely a bawdy joke, costume, and caricature, and as such an invitation for physical aggression, groping, or invasions of personal space. What in any other context might be considered sexual assault or harassment, is “all in good fun.”


Drag in many ways becomes a mirror, onto which people quickly project their own issues with gender identity. It has been profound for me to experience firsthand how much misogyny exists within the gay community.  I suppose it was naive for me to assume that gay men would somehow be universally more evolved about gender. There is a disturbing link between misogyny and transphobia within the gay community as well. Gender and sexuality are so frequently lumped together in Western culture, when in fact beneath the surface there is a tremendous spectrum of variables that warrant separate consideration.


Join the conversation: gender bending

  • Biological sex, internal conception of gender, external performances of gender, cultural codes/expectations of gender, sexual desire, sexual fantasy, sexual identity, and cultural codes/labels for sexuality… how do you nuance your own gender and sexuality beyond male/female or gay/straight?
  • Have you experienced disconnects between your own senses of gender and sexuality and the norms of your culture or community? What challenges or opportunities have resulted?
  • In the background clip on this page, I touch on a theme of disparaging or fearing the feminine in the gay male community (“No fems.” “Straight acting.”).  These statements imply a collectively accepted sense of what is masculine. Whether gay or straight, men in American culture seem to be quite constrained in their performances of identity. Whatever your gender identity, how do you perform or play with these ideas of masculinity in your own life?


Share your thoughts and comments in the -“gender bending” blog feed below, and I’ll keep adding mine as well.


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