A Look at LGBTQ Artists in Burlesque

Otaymah Bonds
By | 2019-02-06T15:54:35-04:00 February 6th, 2019|Opinions, Viewpoints|

One would think that in the field of burlesque, sex and the discussion of it would be welcome, but this may not always be the case. In 2019 there is open discussion about all things LGBTQ as well as openly gay celebrities, but in the burlesque world, sex and sexual orientation are still considered dirty words by some. Why is this the case? Perhaps the answer to this and many other questions lies in pondering why humans readily embrace some things and people and not others. Normally, that which is deemed different is looked at with suspicion and approached with caution — as is the case with the LGBTQ or queer burlesque performers.
At the onset, those who decide to perform burlesque are told that burlesque is one big glittering family and that all body types and characteristics are welcome. But one only has to be in that world for a short time to see that this may not always be the case. While many well-known burlesque performers may carry the torch for campaigns like body positivity, self-hatred and body hate, they are markedly more quiet on issues of race and sexual orientation.
When race and sexuality are approached and asked to be spoken about by those who vehemently rally against bodily discrimination, all talks may diminish or downright cease. The lack of discussion within the burly world about said topics has left a gaping hole within the community and left members of the sparkly tribe feeling alienated and misunderstood. And for those who happen to be both a racial minority and LGBTQ, that void is felt even more so.
It’s possible also that the topic of sexuality and talks of it may not be seeing many advances in the burlesque world due to an “it’s none of my business” mentality that’s popular with performers. While it is acceptable to ask a person’s method of adhering sequins to a bra, it may not be seen as good taste to inquire about a person’s sexual orientation. Another reason sexual orientation and gender may not come onto the proverbial burlesque stage, is that some see it as too big of an issue to tackle. Let’s face it, burlesquers still haven’t even come to any type of agreement as to whether burlesque is stripping let alone whether it’s okay to come to a workshop deemed for females if you were not born genetically female.
While the reasoning behind why sexual orientation is not more openly learned about and undertaken may seem small it can be assured that the issue of it is not. The lack of acceptance of LGBTQ performers in the burlesque community creates an unnecessary divide when, in reality, we are all here to make beautiful art, no matter who is in our bed. With the Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriage, perhaps it is time for burlesque to open its arms wider to its LGBTQ artists. After all, burlesque is about society, what makes it and shapes it, and performing about it. And LGBTQ artists are definitely a part of society, whether the burlesque world as a subset of the world wants to acknowledge and deal with it or not.

About the Author:

Otaymah Bonds
The Irresistible O is a burlesque and pinup historian, known as the Sepia Queen of Burlesque, the Black Prima Ballerina of Burlesque and the Pin Up Queen. She is the 2015 Burlypicks Michigan Master of Voice, 2015 Miss Pin Up Perfection, 2016 Miss Phobia Pin Up, the Inaugural Miss HotWheels Pinup, and the 2017 Burlypicks Master of Improv. She has been featured by Ohio Burlesque, the blog I Gave My Body, Moxie Dolls Pinups and Burlesque Magazine. She is also a writer for Burlesque Bitch and guest blog writer for Burlycon. Her literary work has also appeared in Burlesque Bible Magazine. O also instructs the world-renowned History of Performers of Color in Burlesque course, and actively teaches and discusses the absence and history of women of color in the pinup, rockabilly and burlesque genres. She also teaches all genres of dance, theater, and vocal arts.