Drag Queens Are Popular; What's Next?
What does the future hold for the drag community?
For the past three weeks, I've spent at least one day each weekend seeing a drag show. Not watching RuPaul's Drag Race, not watching one of the popular queens from the show on her tour, but seeing local, wonderful, drag talent. Trading in my... ahem... expensive V.I.P. tickets to have a meet and greet with Trixie Mattel before being in the third row for her touring concert, I instead paid a nice five bucks (well, one show was ten dollars, but that included a free drink) to see the "lesser-known" drag performers. This in no way means they were any less enjoyable than the queens that you see on Drag Race; in fact, I could make a list of the effortless and passionless lip-sync for your life's on Drag Race that were eclipsed by these performances. What is noteworthy about these shows, however, was the fact that it wasn't just a bunch of men appearing as drag queens.
Now, there have been some women who have appeared as contestants on Drag Race; however, there has yet to be a cisgender woman to compete on the show. Furthermore, without trying to get into the debacle that is RuPaul, he has made it very clear that he does not support women being on the show, and aside from his transphobic views on drag, I feel this also represents one of the tragic failings of the show: it absolutely misses on a great portion of the drag community by not allowing and avoiding any cisgender women performing as drag queens (bio-queens as some call them), and Drag Race has yet to have any representation of drag kings.
I personally hate the way that Drag Race has treated any drag character on the show that isn't completely feminine. Coming to mind immediately is Alaska in 'boy drag' in the Children's TV Episode challenge in season 5, or Milk's 'facial hair toga' look, or his 'day-time Ru' look, both from season 6. The show has not embraced any looks that challenge the idea of what drag can look like, and tends to attempt to stay within the idea that Drag is men dressing up as women.
The fault in this comes from the lack of education about the rest of the drag scene. In a community that is diverse and creative as the drag community, there is a huge variety of ways in how drag can look. Regardless if it's traditional, campy drag queens impersonating Cher or Tina Turner, the weird nouveau look of the club kids, or today's modern look of androgynous or hyper-masculine drag kings, every single moment of that history and culture should be embraced. Whether they come from the ballroom scene, the pageant circuit, or someone has found their fame in their local LGBT* clubs or on Instagram, regardless, they should be seen as artists and creators, and their unique vision and art-form should be embraced.
Now, I don't want this column to be another complaint about how terrible Drag Race is. To be fair, the show is groundbreaking, and has brought something like drag queens that was once kept at Pride Parades and gay clubs and brought it to the forefront. People who ten, twenty years ago may have never embraced the community, or may have never been a part of something like it can now see themselves as part of it, thanks to the show. That being said, there is still limitations, and that's where the trouble comes in. The representation for cisgender gay men, and trans women (also there's a little non-binary representation, but not really) is there, but for others, it's missing. The other art forms are missing.
In the future, however, I would like to see more drag in the world, of all kinds. As more and more people start to go see drag shows, see the amount of variety that is included in the community, I think that the acceptance and respect for it will increase as well. I want to see drag kings in particular get the respect and love they deserve—while drag queens do a lot of work for their craft, drag kings do not do less.
I also would like to see the variety of drag better reflected as well. While I think that Drag Race is great for a reality competition show, it doesn't show some of the other aspects of the Drag Scene that I think should be seen more.