Drag Queens and Drag Kings Essay

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Drag queens and drag kings are men, women, and transgendered people who perform femininity, masculinity, or something in between. Drag queens have long been part of gay life, but drag kings are a relatively recent phenomenon. Drag in various forms can be found in almost all parts of the world, and increasingly a transnational drag culture is evolving. Gender theorists have been very interested in cross-dressing and transgender performances for what they reveal about the social construction and performativity of gender and sexuality.

“Female impersonators” generally keep the illusion of being women, in contrast to drag queens, who regularly break it by speaking in their male voices, referring to themselves as men, or discussing their tucked penises. Drag king troupes, influenced by feminism and queer theory, tend consciously to deconstruct masculinity and femininity in performances, including by “bio queens,” women who perform femininity, as well as by women performing masculinity. Ballroom, a cultural phenomenon in communities of color made famous by the film Paris is Burning, encompasses a variety of categories: ”butch queens” (gay or bisexual men who are masculine, hypermasculine, or effeminate), ”femme queens” (male-to-female transsexuals at various stages), ”butch queens” up in drags (gay men in drag), ”butches” (female-to-male transsexuals, butch lesbians, or any woman dressing as a man), ”women,” and ”men” (straight men).


  1. Rupp, L. J. & Taylor, V. (2003) Drag Queens at the 801 Cabaret. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.
  2. Shapiro, E. (2007) Drag kinging and the transformation of gender identities. Gender & Society 21: 250—71.

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