Those who would separate the drag queens from the gay community need to take a good look back at the last 40 years of the equality fight
So who wants to be a drag queen?
Trust me on this one, you probably don’t. But not for the reasons you’re thinking.
The typical day in the life of the drag queens I know involves going to their day jobs so they can provide themselves with food, shelter, transportation, basic clothing and the other necessities of life. Then after they’ve cleaned house, worked in the yard, shopped for food and so forth, it’s time to start preparing to assume their alter egos.
Before they can even begin to think about going on stage, there’s the enormously costly and laborious task of purchasing wigs, gowns, hose, high heels, makeup, jewelry, undergarments, padding and who knows what else.
The hour before show time in a drag queen dressing room is quite a sight as men, who generally are pretty average in appearance, transform into their own visions of exotic glamour.
The transformations are pretty dramatic, and it always takes me a while to connect the person from before to the person after.
Finally, it’s on to the sweltering bright lights of the stage to give the performances for which they’ve spent many hours in rehearsal.
And of course let’s not forget the labor of carting all of the wardrobe and accessories to the show, then back home and just getting out of the costumes and makeup.
The drag queen’s reward for the labor in most nightclubs is applause from the audiences that appreciate the art of female impersonation. The money they receive in tips usually goes to charity or back into replenishing their closets and makeup cases.
Unfortunately, sometimes they must endure slurs from those in the LGBT community — usually from gays guys who think they are the very essence of masculinity. And therein lies the point I want to make.
I was surprised recently to hear someone remark that drag queens have nothing in common with gay men, and that there is no relationship between them and same-sex attraction.
Oh, really? Well, first of all I’ve never known a drag queen that wasn’t gay, and it’s really not the same thing as mere cross-dressing.
It is an art form that has been a part of the gay entertainment scene since the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969. In fact, it was the drag queens that led the battle against police oppression during those few hugely significant nights of civil disobedience.
And during the AIDS crisis, who do you think was helping lead the charge in fundraising at all of those benefits in the bars?
I’m not sure the LGBT community would even exist in the strong form it does today without the contributions of drag queens.
It’s OK if you don’t appreciate the art of female impersonation. But at least give a little thought to everything that has transpired during the past 40 years leading up to your life today before you condemn an important segment of our community.
Now, who wants to be a drag queen? It may take more than you’ve got to give. •
David Webb is a former staff writer for the Dallas Voice who lives on Cedar Creek Lake now. He is the author of the blog TheRareReporter.blogspot.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 16, 2010.