‘We’re all born naked, and the rest is Drag’ this RuPaul quote isn’t just another snappy drag-queen sound byte, it also works as a very profound statement on the performance of identity and gender in modern times. As Grayson Perry notes in his book The Descent Of Man, heterosexual white middle class males ( what he calls Default Men) are certain their clothes, behavior and ideas are ‘natural’ simply because they have shaped our culture for hundreds of years and are therefore ‘the norm’, yet even basic male behaviour is eventually a performance to pass an internalized test of ‘maleness’. Children by the age of 7 are acutely aware of gender, but their ideas on gender performance and identity are based on what adults tell them and how they behave. Pink for girls and blue for boys, for example is a marketing ploy ( gendered items are harder to pass down to younger children unless they’re all the same sex) and quite a recent thing, in 1918 fashion magazines still considered pink to be a ‘stronger’ color, and more advisable for boys. Most identity is conditioning and performance and as Zygmunt Bauman noted in Liquid Love, in the fluid state of our modern times ‘ whatever vocabulary is used to articulate the current plight of homo sexualis, and whether self-training and self-discovery or genetic and medical interventions are viewed as the right way to the proper/ desirable sexual identity, the bottom line still remains the ‘alterability’, transience, non-finality of any of the assumed sexual identities.’ Fluidity of movement among identities, places, even sexual identities is part and parcel of ‘liquid modernity’. It’s not surprising then that a survey by YouGov UK found that 49 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds identifies themselves as “something other than 100 percent heterosexual” or that only 44% of the Gen Z interviewees always bought clothes designed for their own gender ( versus 54 percent of millennials). It’s apparent that a wider dialogue on identity, gender and sexuality has helped the new generations come to terms with the performative aspects of gender and sexuality in a personal, fluid way that was unthinkable even 50 years ago

Text by Riccardo Slavik