Re: The Line Between Drag & Transgender

Subject: Re: The Line Between Drag & Transgender
Date: Fri 09 Oct 1998 - 10:53:27 BST

In a message dated 98-10-09 00:31:35 EDT, writes:

> There is nothing in the concept of drag-queen that requires a penis. There
> is a
> well-established tradition of talking about female drag-queens and female
> female-impersonators. The classic case of course is Mae West ( who
> actually
> did learn her mannerisms from a theatrical female impersonator). Dolly
> Parton is
> another frequently mentioned female drag-queen (and in fact has said in
> interview
> that if she were a man she would be male female-impersonator). Have you
> never
> the line about someone being a drag-queen trapped in the body of a woman.
> Female drag - and male drag - are both artificial constructions, that is
> performances, which have only an ironic relationship to femaleness and
> maleness.
> Any person, male or female, het or gay, transgendered or otherwise, can do
> female
> drag and also male drag. They can do it once in a lifetime, as a job, or
> invest
> their personality in it. And - like other forms of camp - drag can be
> conscious
> or unconscious. Bakker can be a drag-queen without acknowledging the
> concept.

The question raised was if one stops being female bodied because one is seen
as a drag queen. While Mae West and Dolly Parton have both been close with
drag queens, ("The Drag," If I'd been born a boy, I'd sure enough be a drag
queen because I love these wigs and dresses") I doubt that they identified as
such. More than that, I doubt Tammy Faye Bakker idenifies herself as being
"in drag" when she goes out in the morning.

There are female bodied people who do identify as drag queens, Raven Snook is
one example -- the "drag queen trapped in a woman's body" you cite.

Of course there are Transmen who do drag, but the key questions are:

1) Do we get to identify someone as a drag queen because we percieve them as
flamboyant and highly stylized in their approach to performing "woman," or is
drag queen only a self identification?

This is a big deal. Do we get to impose concepts on them or do they have to
self identify?

2) When someone other than a homosexual man identifies as a "drag queen," is
that identification used in an ironic way? When we call someone a "drag
queen" because they are campy and stylized, aren't we saying that they act
like a homosexual man in drag? We don't mean that Dolly Parton *is* a drag
queen, rather that she is *like* a drag queen because she is similar.

There may be "nothing in the concept of drag queen that requires a penis" as
you say, and while I agree that anyone can do "drag," I do believe that with
the common usage of drag queen in this culture, anyone who is a "drag queen"
without being a homosexual man is an exception and not a rule.

"Gender is an imitation for which there is no original," as Butler says, and
the question of who is performing whom is interesting here. I suspect that
Dolly Parton never met an out "drag queen" until rather late in life, but I
also suspect that some of the people who helped shape her image were
homosexuals in the fashion trade -- designers, hairstylists, makeup artists,
whoever. Was her acceptance of their help (even without knowing that they were
homosexual) the thing that turned Dolly into an imitation of a woman as these
homosexuals imagined a woman, or did the fact that she made the choices from
what was offfered to her mean that they are "true" woman choices, coming from
her woman born female persona?

In any case, I suspect that while Dolly may be "drag queen like," neither she
nor few others would refer to her as a "drag queen" and not a "woman."

Now, as for how many "drag queens" self-identify and would be identified by
others as "women," that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish. . . .



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