Paul “Anne-Marie” Hurst, of Sydney, got away with attending the opening of Priscilla wearing a frock, and managed to drink uninterrupted at the casino bar, “Priscilla’s” afterward. But when she then decided to have a flutter in the casino, was denied entry on the basis of being inappropriately attired for ‘his’ gender. (Notably, the news article seems committed to keeping Hurst in the gendered place alloted at birth, referring to her constantly as Mr Hurst)
The theming of the bar, and the success of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, are interesting phenomena in Australia to begin with. In a country profoundly committed to archetypes of masculinity, there is a tradition of dressing “real men”, of unimpeachable masculinity, up as women. The Footy Show is Australia’s contemporary bastion of masculinity, which makes liberal use of cross-dressing, but for the dual purposes of degrading particular women (such as sports commentator Caroline Wilson) and reinforcing homosocial bonds between the show’s hosts.
The film, Priscilla, trod a fairly similar path; and was criticised in Australia by feminists who felt it represented a kind of hyper-masculinity coupled with misogyny, rather than a genuine bending of gender norms. Or, perhaps more to the point, it plays off one against the other: gender bending being tolerated by the Australian mainstream only on condition that elsewhere in the narrative women are deprecated, thus reinstating the conventional gender hierarchy.
Or, perhaps transvesticism can only be tolerated when we ‘know’ that it’s only a performance, and that there’s ‘really’ an actor under there—an actor whose sexuality and gender identity are beyond reproach. Perhaps a burley bloke like Guy Pearce or Hugo Weaving. It all gets a bit serious when a chap wants to dress like a woman because she feels more herself that way – like Paul Hurst (or is it Anne-Marie) of this story.