Grumpy Virgin bows out as drag becomes a political act in Turkey

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08/29/2020

For decades in Turkey, there was no higher honour than being made fun of by Huysuz Virjin (Grumpy Virgin), the country’s first drag queen, beloved for her glamorous outfits and outrageous sense of humour. Two days after the then Turkish president, Turgut Özal, appeared as a guest at her Istanbul show in the early 1990s, she was joined by Rauf Denktaş, the leader at the time of Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. “Will all presidents be short and stocky? Are there any thinner and leaner ones?” she asked with a coy smile, drawing howls of laughter from both the politician and the audience. It is hard to imagine any entertainer making President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the butt of a dirty joke today, which is perhaps why Huysuz Virjin’s death last month aged 87 was widely mourned. “Drag was all glamour and cheekiness for Huysuz’s generation but it’s now become a political act in Turkey,” said the drag artist Deniz Aşırı as she watched her friend Florence Konstantina Delight perform zenne, a traditional form of male belly dancing, at Istanbul’s first drag show since coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

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