Drag is about flamboyance, extravagance and uniqueness. While it could mean a gay man dressed in hyper-femme clothes for the stage, it could also mean a cisgender female dressed in hyper-femme clothes to go out to a club. It is not, to me, about the mundane. It is about special occasions. It can be about gender transgression but it can be about other sorts of transgressions as well, like blending species.
I have spent many hours in queer clubs watching drag queens and drag kings. I view these folks as part of my transgender kin and of watching drag performance as part of my queer experience. It is truly part of my formative queer awakening. I am glad I got to enjoy so many high-spirited and comical drag performances over the years.
I grew up in a time when transgender was an umbrella term that included cross-dressers, drag queens and kings, genderqueer as well as trans men and women. As I wrote about in a previous entry, now transgender has come to mean transgender men and transgender women. Now a more divisive spirit has overtaken the trans community and there is even an anti-drag ideology in some quarters.
I wholeheartedly stand up for drag both as a transgender person and as a feminist. Way back in 1973, trans icon and warrior Sylvia Rivera was accosted on stage by both gay men and lesbian feminists. The lesbian feminists didn’t want her because they said that drag was inherently misogynistic and degrading to women. The gay men didn’t want her because they felt that drag queens gave gay men a bad name. The transfeminine person has always inhabited a difficult positon within the feminist and queer communities. My goal is to bring together queer, transgender and feminist perspectives to celebrate the drag queen, the transfeminine person and the transgender women. This is not to say that we are all the same. But it is simply to call for greater unity across our differences because the reality is that our enemies want us all dead. They don’t differentiate between identity gradations.
It has always been curious to me why drag kings do not inhabit the same visibility as their drag queen sisters. I have always loved drag kings, attended a drag king conference [IDKE] and have seen many drag king performances and invited them to perform at conferences that I have planned. I think the reason for less visibility is anti-female sexism. Even if men are being portrayed, the starting point is female and therefore society takes less interest in it. Perhaps there is also less interest in masculine gender expressions or clothing as well. At any rate, drag kings are on par with queens and should be given the same platform.
I think we should all embrace our inner drag royalty. There is a reason why they are called kings and queens. They are royalty. Drag is part of our queer lineage and it is a lineage of lavender royalty. Drag queens and transgender women of color were amongst the royalty at Stonewall and Compton’s who fought back the hardest. We are all the stronger because of their contributions. Let drag in all its beauty, colorfulness and complexity continue to pour forth!