Panti Bliss- Exceptional and Everyday

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I was fortunate enough to see a screening of “The Queen of Ireland” at the Denver film festival this weekend. I find myself gobsmacked by the sheer audacity that a drag queen can bring to the table.

Panti Bliss (Rory O’Neill) has become a symbol in Ireland for equality and fairness. Armed with the tenacity of survival and fueled by a few decades of entertainment savvy as well as an integrated refusal to be bullied, Panti stood strong when the dogma of religion reared its head to say that LGBT human beings don’t deserve the same rights (marriage and parenting) that most do and won the hearts of the Irish people and inspired their minds when a referendum for marriage equality was put for a national vote.

All the while, Panti remains  Rory O’Neill when the cameras are off. Born in a small Irish village known for its rough attitudes toward LGBT people, Rory left his hometown at a young age to become first a student, then a globetrotting crossdressing entertainer, an HIV survivor, a philanthropist, and a reluctant advocate.  He changed not only the loves and lives of his homeland, but changed the very same things in his village as well.

The film finishes with him giving an appearance (in drag) to a packed house in a tire store in the village where he grew up. This is perhaps the most poignant part of the film for me. To see Panti standing in a room rife with the source of his childhood shame, experiencing the bliss of the transformation of shame to acceptance.  It is remarkable.

I am posting a video of Panti’s “Noble Call”given at the National Irish Theater after an earlier television appearance caused a kerfuffle which resulted in the tv station receiving a threat of a lawsuit from the religious faction of Ireland if it were shown again.  This talk is put with a soundtrack provided by the Pet Shop Boys.

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