What did drag queens and drag culture ever do for us? Well actually, quite a lot. I would even go so far as to say that people, in general, have a lot to thank drag for. The sudden and intense acceptance of drag culture has given us something more profound than amusement.
I don’t think I would ever have envisaged myself in a Birmingham gay club, waiting to see Willam Belli. However six months ago, that’s exactly where I was. Nor did I imagine I would receive an image of my brother with Raja Gemini; let alone did I actually expect to be jealous of him. Sibling rivalry runs deep.
There are continual club nights, book signings, music videos, cabaret shows and meet and greets. There are 8 seasons of the infamous RuPaul’s Drag Race to work through at your leisure; I have already done so and I can recommend them wholeheartedly. I can name numerous queens, and there are now hundreds more with growing online followings. There is even a British Drag Race in the pipeline.
Deeper level to drag
Yes, it’s all entertainment and glitter. However, there is a deeper level to drag culture which I have only just begun to notice. It is a world which adores difference. It is a way of life that praises femininity. It does not discriminate, it is not limited by any kind of societal standard, and it is definitely not bland.
The fundamental backbone of drag is exaggerated femininity. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be necessary to bring femininity into the spotlight, but it would be wrong to shut down this benefit for that reason alone. Being a woman, and a feminine woman at that, isn’t a dampener on success in this ideology.
Atop the foundation of femininity comes persona, and each drag queen has her own. Every persona challenges another prejudice surrounding femininity. Some play on exaggerated sexuality. The idea of a woman getting what she wants with regard to sex isn’t that unthinkable anymore. Owning your own body is celebrated. As Latrice Royale once said; “large and in charge, chunky yet funky”.
The entire male gender is no longer restricted to masculinity. The lines between men, women and androgyny are now as good as non-existent. Binaries are falling into disrepute when facing up to the liberal nature of drag. Presenting yourself as feminine, regardless of your gender, isn’t equal to presenting yourself as inherently weak.
Makeup as an art form
Wearing makeup is now more of an art form than a cover-up. I no longer have to be ashamed of choosing to wear green lipstick on a night out – yes, I have done this. Red lipstick has even become a daytime feature on my face. Who would have guessed?
So maybe this is slightly to do with my own self-confidence, rather than the judgement of others. However, it can’t be denied that the normalisation and heightening appreciation of the different and the bizarre stems from the world of drag.
Of course, drag isn’t the only catalyst for change. Liberal attitudes are doing wonders to make the world a more accepting place. More and more prominent figures are trashing the idea of a gender binary, owning their femininity and asserting themselves in their respective industries.
Drag is just one piece of a very intricate puzzle. However, it teaches us a very significant lesson. Being feminine is wonderful. The bizarre is beautiful. Deviating from what is expected of you is as fun as it is fruitful.
This underground culture has just emerged out of its glitter-coated cavern, and it may still go back. There is no way to tell. But for now, I’m going to keep attending endless drag shows and I’m going to keep wearing my green lipstick. I love this new-found world of imperfect perfection. We could all use a bit of drag in our lives.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below!
Image of Willam Belli: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons
Image of Latrice Royale: Ivan Bandura/Wikimedia Commons