KEEPING OUR STORIES ALIVE

Dis/patches from the Foreign Office - Part 2

Dis/patches from the Foreign Office – Part 2

Dis/patches from the Foreign Office – Part 2

In dis/patches from the Foreign Office, Trans Collection Project Assistant Sajdeep Soomal explores newspaper articles, legal cases, and other ephemera stored in the CLGA’s international collection.

Issue 2
Queens / Begums

Today, drag queens, TV queens, kweens, dancing queens, welfare queens, faux queens, street queens, drama queens, dairy queens and the queen regent herself dot our contemporary anglophone landscape. But where does the term queen come from? What does it signify? The story is complex, but its roots can be traced to the Proto-Germanic word “kwēniz” meaning woman or wife. It was only in the middle medieval period that queen became a monarchic title. Since then, the term queen has been mobilized for varying itineraries (see above). Most notable is the genesis of drag queens and trans women as public figures in the American settler imagination following the 1966 Compton Riots. Susan Stryker reminds us of the Screaming Queens that led the charge.

In the subcontinent, the story started earlier, in part with the khwaja saras. Translatable to “mystic princess,” it marks out sufic futures on the brink of revival. But what about the Begums and Malikas now sweeping Pakistan today? In late 2005, when Karachi-based television host and actor Ali Saleem started cross-dressing on television as Begum Nawazish Ali, he was heralded in the English-language Pakistani media as a “chat show queen” – the new “TV queen” of Pakistan. Drawing on North American drag presenter traditions – think RuPaul – and with the self-ascribed Urdu title “Begum” which means lady of high rank, Ali Saleem is a part of an emergent global cosmopolitan drag culture.

American Queens and Pakistani Begums, both wrapped up in the modernity of drag, do not tend to ask about the well-being of the fakir. But perhaps an upcoming generation of khwaja saras will.

On the left is a newspaper with the headline “He’s the chat show queen of Pakistan”, in reference to actor Ali Saleem cross-dressing as Begum Nawazish Ali. On the right is a picture of Begum Nawazish Ali sitting with a woman in the background.
On the left is a newspaper with the headline “He’s the chat show queen of Pakistan”, in reference to actor Ali Saleem cross-dressing as Begum Nawazish Ali. On the right is a picture of Begum Nawazish Ali sitting with a woman in the background.

Leave a reply

Connect with us...

Dis/patches from the Foreign Office – Part 2

Dis/patches from the Foreign Office – Part 2

In dis/patches from the Foreign Office, Trans Collection Project Assistant Sajdeep Soomal explores newspaper articles, legal cases, and other ephemera stored in the CLGA’s international collection.

Issue 2
Queens / Begums

Today, drag queens, TV queens, kweens, dancing queens, welfare queens, faux queens, street queens, drama queens, dairy queens and the queen regent herself dot our contemporary anglophone landscape. But where does the term queen come from? What does it signify? The story is complex, but its roots can be traced to the Proto-Germanic word “kwēniz” meaning woman or wife. It was only in the middle medieval period that queen became a monarchic title. Since then, the term queen has been mobilized for varying itineraries (see above). Most notable is the genesis of drag queens and trans women as public figures in the American settler imagination following the 1966 Compton Riots. Susan Stryker reminds us of the Screaming Queens that led the charge.

In the subcontinent, the story started earlier, in part with the khwaja saras. Translatable to “mystic princess,” it marks out sufic futures on the brink of revival. But what about the Begums and Malikas now sweeping Pakistan today? In late 2005, when Karachi-based television host and actor Ali Saleem started cross-dressing on television as Begum Nawazish Ali, he was heralded in the English-language Pakistani media as a “chat show queen” – the new “TV queen” of Pakistan. Drawing on North American drag presenter traditions – think RuPaul – and with the self-ascribed Urdu title “Begum” which means lady of high rank, Ali Saleem is a part of an emergent global cosmopolitan drag culture.

American Queens and Pakistani Begums, both wrapped up in the modernity of drag, do not tend to ask about the well-being of the fakir. But perhaps an upcoming generation of khwaja saras will.

On the left is a newspaper with the headline “He’s the chat show queen of Pakistan”, in reference to actor Ali Saleem cross-dressing as Begum Nawazish Ali. On the right is a picture of Begum Nawazish Ali sitting with a woman in the background.
On the left is a newspaper with the headline “He’s the chat show queen of Pakistan”, in reference to actor Ali Saleem cross-dressing as Begum Nawazish Ali. On the right is a picture of Begum Nawazish Ali sitting with a woman in the background.

Leave a reply

News Categories

CONTACT US


Telephone: 416-777-2755
Email: queeries@clga.ca

Street Address:
34 Isabella Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 1N1

Mailing Address:
Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives
P.O. Box 699
663A Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 1Z9

PUBLIC HOURS

6:30 pm - 9:00 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

1:00 pm - 5:00 pm Friday

NOTE TO RESEARCHERS:
Some of our materials are stored off site. Before visiting the archives, please send us an email at queeries@clga.ca listing in detail the topics and sources that you wish to consult and we will let you know when they will be available. We aim to respond to email inquiries within 4 business days.

The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives is located on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and the Huron-Wendat. Today, Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.

The CLGA strives to gather the stories of the unheard and silenced voices of the 2SLGBTQ+ first peoples of this land. We acknowledge that some stories have already been lost, and we aim to ensure that those that remain and those that are to come are preserved for the future.