UPDATE: It should be noted Crocker’s appearance has changed significantly.
Nobody is particularly interested in Chris Crocker anymore; maybe he’s been replaced by B. Scott. But I still think he’s fascinating, and kind of a smart performance artist. (I’m using “he” right now because it’s my understanding that’s the pronoun Chris still uses).
In this video, Crocker, whose hair has been growing longer and whose application of makeup becoming more intricate, answers the question on everybody’s mind: are you a boy or a girl? Well, it wasn’t on my mind; I’d always assumed that Crocker was basically somewhere in between. Behold, he proved me right!
“I don’t feel like just boy or just girl…I do not believe that my genitalia defines my gender…My souls defines my gender, and actually I don’t even know that souls have genders. I just know how I feel inside.”
But that’s not what the headline to this post is about. Crocker’s reluctance to define himself as one gender puts him in league with a number of other camp performers I interviewed a year ago for a paper titled, “Camp 2.0: A Queer Performance of the Personal,” now in review at Communication, Culture and Critique (abstract here). My basic thesis was that, because of generational and sociological trends, and the space of YouTube itself, camp performers (“queer” or gay performers working in the decades-old aesethetic tradition of irony and theatricality) were infusing more potent ideas of individuality and “personality” into what was is traditionally a community practice and style. Part of this individuality, this “personal” discourse, is reflected in the rejection of labels like “gay” and even gender terms like male and female.
Britney Houston, a popular music video remixer, told me she identifies as gender queer and appreciates the “is she or isn’t she?” debates that occur in the comment section of her videos. Michael Lucid, an independent filmmaker, rejects the label of drag queen and says he actually sees himself, when he’s on camera, as a husky voiced woman.
What replaces the labels? Performers told me some version of expressing their “soul,” or personality, mediated by presumably real emotions and investments in their own videos and representations. Chris Crocker is perhaps the best example. In his infamous “Leave Britney Alone!” video, Crocker sobs histrionically in front of the camera, in a way so extreme, it seems certainly put on. But Crocker has insisted to this day that his emotions were real. Why? Because Crocker wants us to think of himself as an individual whose soul overrides the categories in which we inscribe him (also because, hey, he really is a rabid Britney fan).
Now, Crocker says that his heart and mind are female, and that’s he’s only grown accustomed to being male. He also says that, while he’s not ready to transition now, he may in the future, and has noticed himself growing — phenotypically — increasingly female. It’s actually an interesting video to watch in its totality, an intimate look at a young person working through his identity in very nuanced ways.
Thanks for the video, Chris! Good luck on your journey, wherever it may lead.