Work Through Avidhya by Following in Drag Queens' Footsteps
A major source of inspiration and comfort to me during the Pandemic has been watching past seasons of Rupaul's Drag race. There is so much to learn from these inspiring Queens! Drag queens have had to fight through so much just to exist. In addition to being such a joy to watch, they’ve expanded my thinking around a core teaching in the Yoga Sutras. Their rejection by loved ones, verbally and physically attacked by strangers, and almost never being recognized for their contribution to our society does not diminish their shine. They have to tap into a deeply rooted truth within themselves to face that cruelty with beauty and grace. That fight is a perfect example of overcoming the first of the kleshas, avidhya (ignorance of the self).
There are five kleshas that are often described as the dust or grime that is covering over the mirror shine of our true and highest self. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali teach us that we must remove these obstacles to achieve enlightenment. The first that must be addressed is a lack of understanding of our true selves. What could bring us further away from that true self than seeking to conform to rigid and antiquated ideas about gender and sexuality? The binary structure that we must be fully defined by one box like male, female, straight, or gay is inherently limiting to our ability to know the self. I highly recommend giving a listen to this beautiful interview Phoebe Robinson did with gender non-conforming activist, Alok. They skillfully articulate how these boxes only serve to limit our joy and self-actualization and aren't benefiting anyone (even those that are comfortable identifying with the boxes).
Drag queens have paved the way for our freedom from these restrictive molds in order to really see and know ourselves. They broke the mold on the inflexible boundaries of heteronormative masculinity. They wanted to wear sparkles and high heels and grew thick as hell skin to deal with all the shit people hurled at them. That shit was because it made people uncomfortable to question those boxes. It's uncomfortable because it is so natural to think outside of them, but it is scary. For those that ground their identity in boxes like male or straight it can shake them to the core. That is the klesha of avidhya rearing its head! They need to do the work to know their true selves so deeply it doesn't matter if someone is not adhering to standards that make them comfortable. If we all did this work, we could know ourselves and have confidence that others choosing to wear lipstick while growing facial hair has absolutely nothing to do with us. We can think it's cool and beautiful or not our thing and it's ALL GOOD.
I encourage you to dig into this work to know yourself and thank or tip a drag queen today for paving the way for you to do it! In the words of the wise yogi, Rupaul Charles, "If you can't love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an Amen?"