Gender roles challenged
Through poetry, comedy and music, a New Yorker performer used her story of discovering her male persona, Dred, as a way to educate her audience about sexuality and gender roles while also entertaining them.
Traditional ideas of gender and sexuality were discussed and challenged in “I Am the One I Always Wanted to Marry,” a one-woman show performed by Haitian American performer Mildred Gerestant Thursday in Dudley Recital Hall.
“When I first saw Mildred/Dred perform a couple of months ago, I absolutely loved the way in which she/he disrupts the binaries of sex and gender and questions the taken-for-granted ideals of masculinity and femininity through her performance,” said Sima Shakhsari, a postdoctoral fellow of women’s, gender and sexuality studies.
Gerestant recently moved to Houston from New York, and has been helping pave the way for drag performers since the 1990s.
“I thought her performance would be a perfect way to make theories of gender and sexuality tangible for students and the community at large and decided to take advantage of the fact that this wonderful artist lives in Houston,” Shakhasari said.
The show challenged the audience to think beyond socially constructed gender roles and question what it means to be male or female, regardless of how society labels people from their biological sex.
“Her performance is more than a drag show,” Shakhsari said. “As an educator, she makes her audience think about the meanings of manhood and womanhood and the racial connotations of these categories.
By creating the social norm of what makes a person male or female, society labels people who don’t fit into those norms as “unnatural” or “abnormal.” This is why it is important to have performers like Gerestant discuss these topics in their works, Shakhsari said.
Gerestant’s performance was brought to the University by the joint effort of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the Women’s Resource Center, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and the LGBT Resource Center.