Hoist By Their Own Petard

Graham Norton Says There’s an Unexpected Upside to the Drag Bans

Graham Norton, current host of the vocal drag competition show Queen of the Universe, knows a thing or two about what makes the cut in drag. Drag bans, for so many reasons, are not it. While an anti-drag movement might be gaining steam now, Norton has good reason to believe right-wingers are not up to the fight they’ve chosen.

For starters, it depends on sheer, willful stupidity—for ordinary people to believe that, in a world of climate change and gun violence, drag is what they need to spend resources fighting. “It’s so ridiculous that I think that bit of the right-wing have sort of overestimated how thick people are,” the Irish comedian told The Guardian in a new interview.

“I think people are gonna go: ‘Oh, wait a minute. So everything you say is bullsh*t?’ Because clearly we are not facing a threat from drag queens. It’s just a form of entertainment. It’s older than God.”

While Norton has an admittedly optimistic view of our polarized paradise, he knows that the anti-drag hysteria will have serious consequences—especially for performers in areas like Tennessee. “It must be terrifying,” he said. “You’re so vulnerable anyway, because you’re so obvious. Which one’s the drag queen? There are no dressing rooms in bars or anything – they have to get ready at home. And then they either walk to the bar or get an Uber; in New York that’s fine, but there must be places now where that’s not such a comfortable thing to do.”

If Norton sounds like he’s being diplomatic with his words, that’s understandable. Last fall, when an interviewer brought up JK Rowling, he gave a very sensible response. Rather than pose the ‘transgender question’ to cis celebrities like himself or Rowling, Norton said, “If people want to shine a light on those issues then talk to trans people. Talk to the parents of trans kids, talk to doctors, talk to scientists. Talk to someone who can illuminate it in some way.”

For that sentiment, JK Rowling—the eternal victim of a supposed witch hunt—accused Norton of supporting rape and death threats. Norton was subsequently hounded off of Twitter by her TERF followers.

Despite incidents like these, Norton remains an ardent supporter of drag performers and trans people. But his positive outlook on the anti-drag moral panic is also just who he is. As an entertainer, his way of fighting the world’s wrongs is by building solidarity through humor.

“Your job is to entertain people and to either make people forget other awfulness or to make them believe that things aren’t as awful as they thought they were,” he explained. “Maybe that’s where my positivity comes from. Or maybe I’m in this world because I have that view.”

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