Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

We Are All Royalty Narrative: Comparison of a Drag Queen and King

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

We Are All Royalty Narrative: Comparison of a Drag Queen and King

Article excerpt

In recent years, media attention on drag performers has increased dramatically (Schact & Underwood, 2004; Vidal-Ortiz, 2008; Zervigon, 2009), transforming the once-hidden leisure activity of gay men and lesbians into a publicly recognized phenomenon. Television shows like RuPauls Drag Race; films such as To Wong Foo (Brown, 1995) and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (also a Broadway musical) (Hamlin, 1994); and popular press books like Diary of a Drag Queen (Harris, 2005) are all examples of the increasing attention paid to drag performers in the public sphere. Yet, these depictions among others often characterize drag performers (and transgender people more broadly) as suffering at the hands of heterosexism and transphobia or as outrageous social actors whose lives are carefully (re)constructed and edited to create marketable images for mass entertainment. Many of these contemporary mediated representations of drag performers (mostly drag queens) have fallen short, however, in offering reflective illustrations of the everyday lived experiences of people with nonnormative gender expressions. Given the misconceptions and misunderstandings circulating around queer lives in general, any intervention that attempts to more fully represent their lives can contribute to the project of rehumanizing people who reject gender binaries (Ivie, 2007). In response, we find ourselves studying the lived experiences of drag queens and kings across North America to illuminate the variety of experiences that shape their lives on and off the drag stage and to understand the social consequences that result from gender nonconformity in play, recreation, and leisure spaces (Johnson, 2009). Adopting a feminist lens, our purpose is to highlight the stories of two drag performers and demonstrate how they both undermine and/or reaffirm dichotomous notions of gender (Butler, 1990, 1993) within the specific realms of politics and queer space, illustrating how gender presentation functions within and against a broader cultural project.

Setting the Stage: Genderqueer as a Theoretical Framework

A pervasive and longstanding tradition of gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer leisure, drag performances represent an important social and political arena for people marginalized on the basis of gender and/or sexual identity (Newton, 1972; Barnett & Johnson, 2013). Shifting between entertainment, comedy, and political commentary, established drag performers serve as some of the most visible members of LGBTQQ communities and are regularly invoked as spokespersons for local struggles both in and outside the LGBTQQ community (Barnett & Johnson).

As a term, drag performer warrants unpacking. Cross-dresser, transvestite, and (female/ male) impersonator are occasionally used to describe the same subject, but we use drag performer throughout this essay since it is the most recognized and frequently used identity marker. In everyday parlance, the first part of the moniker, drag, means making oneself appear to be someone of another gender. The drag look might be generically gendered, based on another person specifically (e.g., Cher or Michael Jackson), or designed to emulate a social role such as grandmother or housekeeper (Newton, 1972). One common misconception about drag is that it necessarily involves movement across gender presentation; for example, a biological female must, for instance, make herself appear (more) masculine to engage in drag. Although most drag kings are biological females who assume a masculine aesthetic, it is not always the case. Biokings and bio-queens are people who perform their own biological sex through a heightened or exaggerated gender presentation. Rupp and Taylor (2003) argued that drag performers "are people who create their own authentic genders" (p. 131). Read as a definition, Rupp and Taylor's assertion honors the agency of drag performers to construct and present gender on their own terms.

The second half of the term, performer, points to the theatrical component of drag. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.