History Of Drag Queens

The History Of Drag Queens

The history of drag queens is rich with roots that can be traced back to various cultures and historical periods. Drag, in a broad sense, refers to the act of dressing in clothing typically associated with the opposite gender for entertainment purposes. Drag queens, specifically, are individuals, usually male, who dress in exaggerated feminine attire and often adopt feminine personas for performances.

Theatrical Origins (Late 19th Century):
The origins of drag can be traced back to theatrical traditions, where men would portray female characters on stage due to societal norms that prohibited women from participating in certain performances. In Shakespearean plays, for instance, young male actors would play female roles.

Vaudeville and Burlesque (Late 19th to Early 20th Century):
The vaudeville and burlesque circuits in the late 19th and early 20th centuries provided a platform for men to perform in female attire for comedic or entertaining purposes. These performances often involved exaggerated femininity and were a way to challenge social norms and expectations.

Drag Balls (1920s-1930s):
In the African American and Latino LGBTQ communities, drag balls emerged as early as the 1920s and 1930s. These events provided a safe space for individuals to express their gender identity and sexuality openly. Drag queens in this context often competed in elaborate costume and performance competitions.

Rise of LGBTQ Culture (Post-WWII):
After World War II, the LGBTQ community began to organize more openly. Drag queens played a significant role in the vibrant LGBTQ nightlife, particularly in urban centers like New York City and San Francisco. The Stonewall Riots in 1969, a pivotal moment in LGBTQ history, had drag queens like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera at the forefront.

Mainstream Recognition (Late 20th Century):
With the rise of LGBTQ activism and visibility, drag queens gained more mainstream recognition. The 1990 documentary "Paris Is Burning" provided an in-depth look at the drag ball culture in New York City. This period also saw the emergence of popular drag performers like RuPaul, who became a prominent figure in both LGBTQ and mainstream entertainment.

Reality Television and Drag Race (21st Century):
The 21st century brought drag culture further into the mainstream, with the success of reality television shows like "RuPaul's Drag Race," which premiered in 2009. The show not only showcased drag talent but also explored the personal stories and struggles of the contestants, contributing to increased acceptance and understanding of drag as an art form.

Today, drag queens continue to be influential figures in LGBTQ culture and entertainment, challenging gender norms and contributing to the ongoing conversation about diversity, acceptance, and self-expression.