Opinion: George Santos’ drag days are a stupid red herring | CNN

Editor’s note: allison hope is a writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate, and elsewhere. The opinions expressed in this comment are my own. See more opinions on CNN.



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Last month, the media circus surrounding US Representative George Santos, elected last November to Congress to represent a district in northeast Queens and part of Nassau County on Long Island, drew an increasingly stunned US public into through an increasingly unraveling web of lies and intrigue. Much of how Santos presented himself during the 2020 bid for office—his background on him, his identity, and his qualifications to serve in government, among other details—has been shown to be false, or at best , doubtful. His campaign finances are also now in the spotlight.

In addition to the unbelievable fabrications Santos spun, it was revealed that he allegedly embezzled a store clerk in Brazil using a stolen checkbook in 2008. (Brazilian authorities plan to reinstate the fraud charges after their investigation was dropped in 2013 because they didn’t were unable to locate Santos.) He also allegedly kept $3,000 from a GoFundMe intended to raise money for surgery on a homeless US Navy veteran’s dog, and even stole a scarf from a friend, which somehow it feels like the lowest of the low.

Responding to the report on the GoFundMe controversy, Santos told CNN that he had “no idea” what his accuser was referring to, stating that “dozens of people have reached out to me to support me and share their stories about their dogs and cats.” that I help save and rescue.” He has also denied any wrongdoing, including fraud or theft, while acknowledging that he fabricated parts of his work, education, and family history both during his political campaign and in his adult life in general.

Amid this hotbed of falsehoods and egregious behavior, one suspicious story in particular has made its way: Santos’ alleged past as a drag performer. Journalist Marisa Kabas first broke the news de Santos dabbling in the world of drag while living in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, revealing an image of a former friend and fellow drag queen, Eula Rochard, of Santos performing under the name Kitara Rivache. Kabas’s scoop has been fueled by frothy reports in American and Brazilian tabloids. This week, Business Insider reported that Santos’ drag career spanned several years.

Santos has largely refuted these characterizations of his past, acknowledging only apparent photo/video evidence that he “was young and having fun at a festival. Sue me for having a life!”

In the words of another American political liar, “Sad!”

But let’s be clear: It’s not sad that Santos was a drag queen. Rather, it is sad that so many Americans seem to care more about (and enjoy) criticizing Santos for expressing her gender diversity than the plethora of potentially criminally offensive lies she has spread. Thanks to those lies, she now sits on two congressional committees. That is the real farce.

Look, we all love a good story of hypocrisy and an unexpected plot twist: Santos positions himself as openly gay and anti-LGBTQ (he has spoken out in support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say” bill). gay”, for example) sure fits that bill. In this sense, there is certainly the appeal for even those who consider themselves LGBTQ allies to cling to outrageous headlines and blurry photos of the Pride parade. Meanwhile, some members of the LGBTQ community have taken the opportunity to criticize Santos’ drag standard.

Still, the overreaction to this part of Santos’s past is hardly surprising. It is in line with America’s witch hunt for people who do not conform to “CisHet” (cisgender and straight) norms, as evidenced by the dangerous moral panic currently hanging over drag queens and transgender people.

Last week, Governor DeSantis requested information about the number of Florida college students who identify as transgender, for currently unknown but certainly sinister reasons, and recently justified his ban on an Advanced Placement African American studies program being taught at the state. for its alleged inclusion of queer theory, among other reasons. That follows several states throwing rocks at trans youth, their families and medical providers and a chilling bill just introduced in West Virginia that would make it a crime to “expose children” to transgender people.

These are just a few of the dozens, possibly hundreds soon, of bills to be introduced with the goal of stripping LGBTQ people of our rights. And that’s not to mention the wave of protests within hours of perfectly innocent drag queen stories across the country, including protests in Queens, just a few miles from the Santos district.

That we’re so distracted by the brash and glitz of drag that we can’t seem to focus on the things that really matter, like our crumbling infrastructure, the climate crisis, the war in Ukraine, and inflation, is daunting. say the least.

Drag is a big part of queer culture, and today even mainstream pop culture, as evidenced by the popularity of shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Many would even argue, as an art form, that drag is inherently political, but it is not a political crisis and should not be judged by the moral police.

Still, it seems there have been as many headlines about Santos’ transvestite days as there have been about his apparent lies about his mother’s presence in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, and earlier coverage revealing that he had lied about his Holocaust survivor grandparents.

That is incredibly problematic and plays into the hands of the far right. I get that it’s easier to complain about a queer person wearing makeup and lip-syncing to Madonna than it is about carbon emissions or the price of eggs, but we have a broken healthcare system. Focus, people!

The frivolous fixation on this part of Santos’ life is the perfect microcosm of how our country is so easily distracted by the LGBTQ culture wars, many of which are deliberately protracted and sensationalized to keep us all from focusing on the big picture. Democrats and sane Republicans should end this conversation. Santos has enough legitimate grievances against him that there is no need to further stigmatize the LGBTQ community.

In a twist of sheer irony, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, has said he will support Santos for now. That, sadly, may be the closest we get to the extreme right embracing LGBTQ people. But I wonder if McCarthy would agree to the trip if Santos suggested leading a drag story hour at his local library, or why not? On the floor of the house! I highly recommend Alicia Ortego’s children’s book, “Honesty is my superpower,” for initial reading.

Maybe one day, we’ll send a proud transvestite to Washington, unashamed of who she is and brutally honest about her journey. By then, I hope her identity is a point of celebration rather than contention.

Once there, hopefully you’ll just say, “Honey, move over, I’m going to sign the health care reform bill” and, like a wig blown away to reveal another wig underneath, your opponents won’t even know what hit them. .

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