Carnival Cruise: You can dress in drag if your drag looks like your photo ID, which would be NO ONE

Suffer the Children

The stupid. Apparently it burns over water too.

You might have heard by now that Carnival Cruises, yesterday, sent an email to everyone attending its “Drag Stars at Sea Cruise” next week, notifying them that they would not be permitted to dress in drag anywhere on the ship, even at the private drag shows that they’d be attending. The penalty: Being booted off the ship.

More than a few passengers were a little miffed, and dumbfounded, that drag was being banned on a drag cruise. And Carnival’s reason was even creepier: It’s to save the children from having to see flamboyant men in even more flamboyant outfits.

Now, granted, that whole Stonewall thing got a bit of out hand, but in the ensuing 43 years, I’m not entirely sure you can point to a single drag queen that’s been a threat to anyone, especially children. (Unless you consider Michele Bachmann and Lindsey Graham, but I digress.) And in any case, what were kids doing on a drag cruise anyway, and what was Carnival doing booking a drag cruise that would have kids on it if Carnival didn’t feel that drag was appropriate for kids?

Mohammad Atta Was a Drag Queen

Well, there was an uproar, and after much stomping of heels Carnival felt that it needed to better explain things to the angry mob of queens, so they issued another statement. This time they explained they weren’t banning drag to protect the kids, they were banning drag in order to stop the next Muhammad Atta.  Seriously.  You see, Carnival explained, they’ve been forced to ban costumes ever since September 11, for security reasons, you know.

Shorter Carnival: If men dress as women, the terrorists win.

Apparently, Carnival still thinks the year is 2002, when everything President Bush wanted simply had to be appended with a “it’s for September 11, you know” and, like magic, Democrats and the country as a whole would gleefully roll over and accept it.

Now, not so much.

Also, it should be noted, that Carnival has other cruises where you can wear costumes without fearing that the guy in the burqa next to you is packing C-4 in his va-jay-jay.  So why the different standard on a gay cruise?

Carnival Va-jay-jay Inspections for Everyone!

Of course, Carnival added that trans people, be they transexuals or cross-dressers, were most welcome on the cruise, and they would be accommodated.  Leading many to scratch their heads and wonder who among Carnival’s staff was going to be performing va-jay-jay checks on the female guests in order to verify that they were in fact women.  And if they were “men dressed as women,” what standard was Carnival going to use to determine if a guest was “a guy in drag” versus a guest who in fact is transgender?  Ask them for the secret trans handshake?

Carnival: You Can Dress in Drag So Long as Your Drag Persona Is You

Well.  You’ll be surprised to hear that Carnival’s “September 11 made me do it” excuse didn’t go over too well with the queens of the sea, so Carnival is yet again changing its story and saying that anyone who presents a government-issued photo ID, and who looks like that ID in drag, can dress in drag at the private drag shows. Otherwise, Carnival is happy to refund your cruise ticket.

As you can imagine, zero percent of the population looks like their government-issued photo ID while in drag, so Carnival is basically telling passenger to suck it up or get off their ship.

Here’s Carnival’s latest:

Gerry Cahill
President and CEO
Carnival Cruise Lines

Within the last 24 hours, we became aware of a miscommunication between Carnival Cruise Lines and, who have booked a large special interest group on the upcoming Carnival Glory cruise departing December 2, 2012.

The group, “Drag Stars at Sea,” includes several performances by stars from Logo TV as part of a series of private events onboard. When the group was presented to us we were advised that only the performers would be dressed in drag during the private events. However, we are now aware that this was not clearly communicated to members of the group and therefore anyone who wishes to dress in drag may do so. Please keep in mind that our safety and security procedures require guests to present government-issued ID, and to be recognizably that person.

At Carnival, we are proud to carry more than 4.5 million guests every year and we welcome them all aboard. We do not practice any form of discrimination against the LGBT or any other community. We sincerely apologize for the miscommunication and for any unintended offense we have caused.

Given this misunderstanding, anyone on this cruise who wishes to cancel for any reason may do so and will receive a full refund of their cruise fare, as well as reimbursement for any non-refundable travel related expenses.

We constantly strive to provide our guests with a fun and memorable vacation. We look forward to welcoming everyone onboard Carnival Glory and again want to apologize for the misunderstanding and for any offense we have caused.

Gerry Cahill
President and CEO
Carnival Cruise Lines

To quote my contracts law professor, Carnival appears to be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  Stay tuned for the next installment, because this clearly isn’t over yet.  For example, Carnival has already opened itself up to potential lawsuits in any part of the country that covers gender identity/expression in local civil rights laws. As I noted earlier:

Here’s another fun question: Is Carnival violating local public accommodations laws that include gender identity?

Thirteen states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia protect transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations. Although the exact definition of a “public accommodation” varies from state to state, a wide variety of businesses are typically covered by such statutes, including restaurants, hotels, theaters, and retail stores. These private businesses that are open to the public may not discriminate based on a person’s transgender status. Private clubs and religious organizations, however, are often exempt from the reach of public accommodations laws.

If you live in a city that has a public accommodations law that covers gender identity, and Carnival tells you that your gender identity, or more precisely your gender expression, is not welcome on a Carnival Cruise, then Carnival may be setting itself up for a whopper of a civil rights lawsuit.  While you might need to be transgender to sue under gender identity, I’d think anyone could sue under gender expression.  Again, if local law protects gender identity and/or expression in public accommodations, and if Carnival is “doing business” in that town or state that includes these protections, and a Web site making sales in that state could be construed as “doing business,” Carnival could be liable under local civil rights laws to anyone wanting to purchase a ticket on this cruise and wanting to dress as another gender.

And I’d argue that it’s not enough for Carnival to say “well, you can refund your ticket” – it doesn’t work for African-Americans to say, “you’re not welcome on the ship, but you can have your money back.”  And by saying that your ID has to look like you, that means you’re per se banning gender non-conforming clothing of any kind, be the rationale trans, drag or whatever.

It’s also not enough for Carnival to say that drag is not permitted, but trans people are a-okay. As I note above, how exactly is Carnival going to enforce its oddly confusing policy that “men had better dress as men, unless they’re trans, in which case they can dress as women, unless their clothing goes too far, then they’ll be kicked off the cruise too”?

Not to mention, how will Carnival know that the woman before them (or the man, for that matter) doesn’t have the “right” sexual organs for their clothing to be gender-conforming?

And most important of all, can we pick which crew member does the spot check?

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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