What started out in the 1800s as cross-dressing on stage and pantomimes and has grown into a booming multimillion-dollar subculture and art form with theatrical flair, incredible talents, and a general “f*ck you” to established gender norms? Yes, kinda like that brunch you went to.
Last Wednesday, four fabulous queens, Gloria Swansong, Thee Suburbia, Patsy Indecline, and Honey Davenport broke down the “Herstory of Drag”, opened up about being a drag queen today, and what they see in drag’s future at the iconic Stonewall Inn. There were feather boas, glitter, as well as dancing and tears (the good kind). All in all, it was fabulous AND educational AF.
Here’s the gist of what we learned, ways to dive deeper and how to run with it. And as a lucky strike extra, Instinct Magazine covered our experience last week. Peep their article here.
Drag has been around since the beginning of time. “Cavemen were m’fng queens!”
- Most folks came to know Drag through one of the original Club Kids, RuPaul, but the history is much MUCH deeper than that. In fact, it’s more of a herstory anyways. During Gloria Swansong’s “Herstory of Drag”, we learned about drag’s deep & rich history. Serving as a reminder that there’s always a level deeper to explore. We’re still shook learning that Catholic nuns also did drag.
The future of drag is intersectional, interdisciplinary and filled with equality. “Drag is more than a man in a dress. Sometimes you can wear pants.”
- Drag, through being a hyper-idealized expression of identity, can be a weapon against shame. Consider how communities built on exploring identity force you to challenge the status quo.
- Even inclusive communities have to fight to keep them from being exclusive spaces. It was hard then and now to be a black drag queen. In post-war America, segregated beauty balls competitions existed exclusively for white queens. Crystal LaBeija, a light-skinned black queen was allowed to participate in the balls but used her platform to push back against racism in the drag community.
“(The future of) Drag will exist outside the moniker of monarchies and gender. We will no longer need to be kings and queens, but simply Drag.”
- As drag becomes more mainstream so does its influence. Industries outside of the explicit drag universe are and will continue to be affected. From modeling to signing record deals, drag demonstrates what happens when movements make waves in other ways.
“This city is saturated with drag artists — they’re in your train, they’re at your job, they might not tell you that they’re there, but they are. I am one of them…Becoming a part of the drag community is realizing you have an incredible gift to open people’s minds to being open with themselves. That’s really what the entire art form is.” — Thee Suburbia
- Read Gloria Swansong’s “Herstory of Drag” notes here and go see her tribute to Judy Garland at Stonewall Inn on March 23rd.
- Read how Drag has impacted language and added to your vocabulary here.
RuPaul’s Drag Race. Our MC, Honey Davenport is on it.
Paris is Burning. An award-winning Sundance documentary of Harlem’s 80s ball culture. For your next WFH day.
The Birdcage. The film is an adaptation of La Cage Aux Folles which paints a colorful picture from when drag was going mainstream. Plus, Robin Williams.
Any Marsha P. Johnson Documentary. Not sure where to start? Jump to the next section.
Run With It
- There’s much information and much more history than could be squeezed into 20 minutes so allow yourself the freedom to go down some rabbit holes. Use what you learn & awareness to identify misperceptions.
Use your curiosity to support culture shifts.
- Simply by supporting drag art, you create additional awareness & interest. Show up to “[w]atch all of these kids and all of these adults as they show you their true authentic selves and they paint that person they want to see in the world that doesn’t exist yet. You get to be a part of that creation every time you show up to one of these events and learn a little bit more about us.”