I don’t do drag.
By this I mean to say two things. First, drag has a specific definition which does not apply to how I present. Second, drag makes me personally uncomfortable, and I would rather not be one of its consumers.
First things first: drag typically refers to cross-gender dress for purposes of entertainment or performance. Drag queens usually do not identify as female, nor do drag kings identify as male. Many, if not most may not even see themselves as transgender.1 Drag demands, or at least thrives upon, a stage. It tends to the garish/outlandish and stereotypical. While drag performers often seem quite comfortable–more so in fact than many of the other transpeople with whom they are confused–they are not primarily motivated by a quest for comfort.
Dee Snider (above) is a drag queen. Alice Cooper was. Eddie Izzard dresses during his performances, but probably is not. The distinction turns on purpose, and/or whether or not one’s cross gender presentation has anything to do with one’s day to day sense of self. Caitlyn Jenner arguably presents a caricatured view of femininity, but presumably out of a sense of deep personal conviction. She is no drag queen.
Drag elicits a reaction. Indeed, this is the point of drag. For those who fancy it, it is delectably transgressive, mocking the gender binary by reducing it to absurdity. Drag isn’t so much about who the performer is as what he or she is trying to say.
Or, perhaps not. I ought not to overgeneralize. Many engage in drag because they simply find it fun. Thousands of people dress in drag on Halloween. By November 1, they have moved on to something else. The individuals in question quite probably break the rules merely for the pleasure of do so. Others revel in the theatrics and artistry, which, I concede, are undeniable.
Still, I don’t like it. Done poorly, it makes me feel like my life is a joke; done well, like make believe. The over-the-top spectacle of it becomes, for those unfamiliar with trans people, particularly transsexuals like me, the gestalt of what it means to be transgender. Drag teems with epithets like “she-male” much in the same way as gangster rap is littered (and, to my eye, polluted) with the N-word.
LGBT events are heavily salted with drag. One cannot go to Pride Festival, for example, without being utterly inundated by it. And, as I said, it makes me squirm. Perhaps this reaction is evidence of the iconoclastic success of drag–after all, some women feel that my feminine presentation caricatures them too. Might they not also assert that my presence brings them down?
The best that I can do by way of rejoinder is to say that this has never honestly, consciously been my intent.
I don’t do drag. I do me.
- Which, of course, is fine by me, although drag would certainly meet the broad, inclusive definition of transgender which I first laid out here.