Drag queens Luc D'Arcy and Jerry Cyr and friend at Montreal's 2003 Divers-Cité pride parade
Drag queens, are performers, often though not always gay men or transgendered women, who perform in drag - the clothes associated with the feminine gender or highly exaggerated versions thereof. Drag is often but not always a costume of extremely gaudy dresses and shoes, large wigs, etc. Different drag queens may imitate famous female film or pop-music stars or create their own unique character. Drag queens sing or lip-synch, dance, and participate in shows, parades such as gay pride parades, cabarets, discotheques, and other celebrations and venues.

Drag is a part of Western gay culture - drag queens fought at the Stonewall riots in June 1969, and drag shows are traditional at pride parades. Prominent drag queens in the Lesbigay community of a city often serve as unofficial spokespersons, chroniclers, or community leaders.

Table of contents
1 Terminology
2 Genres
3 Opinions
4 Famous drag queens
5 External links


"Drag queen" used to be a slang term for a cross-dresser or transgendered person. However, this usage is both dated and widely considered inappropriate (Canadian transgender activist Star Maris wrote a song entitled I'm Not A Fucking Drag Queen to express the difference.) By courtesy, most drag queens are usually referred to as "she" while in drag. Many performers protect their character quite angrily and will be offended if they are referred to as "he", by their legal name, or Drag Queen while they are in drag.

Drag queens were formerly called transvestites. However, that term is now used for someone with transvestic fetishism: a fetish for the clothing of the opposite gender role. Contrariwise, drag queens in general do not do drag for reasons of sexual pleasure. Most who perform, do it as a way to be in the spotlight, and as a road to fame; although that fame can be very localized. Furthermore, most transvestic fetishists are heterosexual men, whereas most drag queens are gay or transgendered. (Indeed, there is a (small) community of straight women drag queens.)

In some areas, drag queens are referred to as female impersonators; in other areas this term is quite dated. "Female impersonation," under that name, used to be illegal in many places, which inspired the famous drag queen Silvia Rivera to suggest to her friends that they should wear buttons saying "I am a boy" so they couldn't be accused of female impersonation.


Drag queen Mado Lamotte performs at Mascara: Le nuit des drags in Montreal
Drag queens can be subdivided into different categories such as:

  • highly camp drag queens, who employ a drag aesthetic based on clown-like values like exaggeration, satire, dirty jokes, putting on airs, and so forth. Divine is an example of a camp queen.
  • Some drag queens, though not as outré as camp queens, employ highly exaggerated feminine personae. The famous American drag queen RuPaul has said, "I do not impersonate females! How many women do you know who wear seven inch heels, four foot wigs, and skintight dresses?"
  • Some drag queens exaggerate in the dimension of elegance and fashion, employing jewelry and beautiful gowns. The Lady Chablis, who can be seen in the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" is an example of this type of performer. Many such drag queens impersonate specific actresses and other pop divas, such as Cher, Madonna, Celine Dion, and so forth.
  • Some drag queens either do not perform or perform only rarely. Their forte is participating in pageants, hence the term pageant queen. Pageant queens gear their act toward winning titles and prizes in various contests and pageantry systems. Some of these have grand prizes that rival those of pageants such as Miss America.

There are other subdivisions such as Strutting Queens and Showgirls which will be added to this article later.


Drag itself is often thought of as a subspecies of transgender, because it subverts gender roles. However, many drag queens are cisgendered gay men in the rest of their lives, whereas transgendered people remain so 24 hours a day. For most drag queens, drag is a hobby, profession, or art form rather than as a sexual orientation or gender identity, though there are exceptions.

Some members of the lesbigay community disdain drag queens; some feminists believe that drag promotes harmful stereotypes of women. A response is that drag is a very specific aesthetic (as RuPaul implies in the quotation above) and is not meant to satirize women in general. Many gender theorists see drag as a subversion of gender roles.

Some are distressed by the participation of drag queens for example in pride parades, believing that that projects a harmful image of the lesbigay community and impedes acceptance. However, others see this point of view as intolerant of the diversity in the community, and still others simply regard drag as traditional fun that needn't be politically analyzed.

Famous drag queens

Some of the more well-known drag performers include:

See also Drag king.

External links