Pantisocracy returns to the RTÉ Radio 1 airwaves this July 3rd, with Panti Bliss once more bringing you an eclectic cabaret of conversations with and about contemporary Ireland, punctuated as ever by show-stopping performances from a smorgasbord of homegrown talent.
By way of an exclusive preview, we present Panti's monologue from a future episode... As ever, it's a bit of a show-stopper. You can watch it above or read it below.
The Young Ones
They say often that youth is wasted on the young, but speak for yourself because I did not waste mine. Now I did not discover a cure for cancer or negotiate the fall of the Berlin Wall, but I did have a LOT of fun.
And what I did do was find me.
Like most young people, I wanted to change the world. Or at least, I wanted to change my experience of it. And for me, drag was my way to do that.
I remember the first time I saw a real live proper drag queen. I was eighteen years old. My first student summer in London. My first gay bar. My heart was pounding in my chest. Nervous. Excited. To be honest I was absolutely terrified. I walked past the door a few times trying to build up the courage. Because I knew - or at least I suspected anyway - that this was a big moment. A life changing moment. There'd be no going back after this! And it turned out I was right.
Now it was a dingy basement, the kind of place... worn around the edges. Nothing to get excited about really, but I couldn’t have been more excited. It was still pretty early and there weren’t many people in yet, but I hardly noticed or cared, because as far as I was concerned, they were all just invisible.
As far as I was concerned there was only one person in the room, and she was badly lit in a cheap sequin dress on a small stage in the corner.
And she wasn’t invisible.
She wasn’t blending into the background!
She was covered in sequins to make damn sure she didn’t!
She was big and bright and bold and colourful and reflecting light and demanding attention.
She had a bloody spotlight! She was anti-invisible!
And she was not terrified her wrist would betray her! She wasn’t trying to suppress any hint of terrifying femininity. She wasn’t pretending to like football, or pretending not to like Madonna when actually she loves Madonna. Hell, she was lip-syncing to Madonna and living her Madonna fantasy!
She had taken all of those things that you were afraid of, all these things they tried to sneer out of you, all of the things they told you were weakness, and she was throwing them back at you as strength. As power. As fun!
She was giving all the assholes on the night bus the glittered finger and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life.
I am a firm believer that everyone should do drag at least once. Or certainly every man. And I mean do it properly. Not like some rugby club stag party in a half-hearted negligee and balloons for boobs. That is not drag, that’s mockery. Give that X chromosome of yours a chance to shine. Put some effort into it. The kind of effort that women are expected to put into it.
Shave your legs, paint your face, hobble yourself in shoes that were not designed for walking, and give it a good go.
Now you will not suddenly magically understand what it is to be a woman, but you might gain a little more respect for what they’re expected to put up with.
And you should do it because it’s fun! To break the rules. To be someone else for a while.
Someone bolder, brighter, stronger.
In armour made of sequins.
Drag is very cool right now. It’s more popular than it ever was. It’s having a "cultural moment". You can’t swing a wig on George’s St at 3am on a Saturday without taking out a couple of baby drags.
I see them, the Baby Drags, coming in. First time in drag. Looks a bit of a mess to be honest because like everything else in life, it’s a learning curve. But she thinks she looks fierce, because she feels fierce. And anyway, looking good is the easy part. It just takes a little practice - and a little more money than she probably she has right now.
And, who knows? Maybe, if she’s nice - and lucky - an older queen might see something in her, some potential, and might take her under her bingo wings. Give her a few tips, show her a few of our secret tricks, maybe give her an old wig she can still squeeze a little life out of.
It’s how the system works: Drag Mothers.
But don’t let the sequins fool you! Because these kids are tough. It makes me laugh when I hear some idiot on the night bus shouting faggot or puffter at these kids. Shouting these words that they mistakenly imagine mean weakness.
Because it takes strength to be a puffter.
It takes courage to be a faggot.
It takes bravery to be a queer.
And it takes all of that and more to be a queen.
Drag is inherently punk. It’s an act of defiance. It’s a two fingers to social expectations. An "Eff you" and your arbitrary rules about how a boy should dress, how a boy should act. It’s a refusal to conform. A refusal to be "appropriate". It’s transgressive, it’s confronting, it’s discombobulating.
It is not weak.
For some of these Baby Drags it’s the very opposite. It’s the first time they’ve found their strength.
These are often the kids that go unnoticed. Whose school years were spent not drawing attention to themselves. The invisible kids you might sit beside on the bus but couldn’t describe afterwards. They learnt the fine art of invisibility as a defence mechanism. It’s their lonely superpower: the ability to blend into the background and go unnoticed. It was safer to go unnoticed. Because whenever they did attract attention it was usually the bad kind. The kind that came with a spat "faggot!" or a dead leg.
They’re the kids who’ve spent their teenage years coiled tight, afraid to relax, in case they’d betray themselves with a girlish squeal or a limp wrist or some other tiny, arbitrary thing that marked them out as different and queer.
And then one day they walk into a gay bar and see their first drag queen.