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Drag Queens and Drag Kings

The term drag artist or drag performer usually refers to people who dress in clothing that is opposite their gender for the purpose of performing, whether singing or lip-synching, dancing, participating in events such as gay pride parades, drag pageants, or at venues such as cabarets and discotheques.  There are many kinds of drag artists or drag performers and they vary greatly, from professionals who have starred in movies to people who try it once just for fun.


A drag queen is a man who dresses, and usually acts, like a caricature of a woman often for the purpose of entertaining.  The performance is typically campy, exaggerated, and intentionally dramatic and flamboyant. Drag queens also vary by class and culture and can vary even within the same city. Although many drag queens are gay men, there are drag artists of all genders and sexualities who do drag for various reasons. Women who dress like men for the same purpose are known as drag kings.




Generally, drag queens dress in a female gender role, often exaggerating certain characteristics (such as make-up and eyelashes) for comic, dramatic or satirical effect. Other drag performers include drag kings, who are women who perform in male roles, faux queens, who are women who dress in an exaggerated style to emulate drag queens and faux kings, who are men who dress to impersonate drag kings.


Famous drag performers include RuPaul, Boy George, and Divine.





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Drag Terminology


The etymology of the term "drag" is disputed. It was used in reference to transvestites at least as early as the 18th century, owing to the tendency of their skirts to drag on the ground. A folk etymology whose acronym basis reveals the late 20th-century bias, would make "drag" an abbreviation of "dressed resembling a girl" in description of male transvestism.




Another term for a drag queen, female impersonator, is still used—though it is often regarded as inaccurate, because many contemporary drag performers are not attempting to pass as women.


American drag queen RuPaul once said "I do not impersonate females! How many women do you know who wear seven-inch heels, four-foot wigs, and skintight dresses?" He also said, "I don't dress like a woman; I dress like a drag queen!"


Celebrity drag couple "The Darling Bears" go so far as to sport full beards for their performances. Going in drag while retaining clearly masculine features is referred to as skag drag. Some performers draw the distinction that a female impersonator seeks to emulate a specific female celebrity, while a drag queen only seeks to create a distinctive feminine persona of his or her own.




There are also performers who prefer to be called "gender illusionists" who do blur the line between transgender and drag queen. Generally transgender performers do not consider themselves to be drag queens and drag queens don't consider themselves to be illusionists, but, as with everything, there are exceptions. Often these distinctions are more generational as laws and acceptance of individuality change and grow.


Transvestism and Cross Dressing


Most drag queens perform for personal fulfillment as a hobby, a profession, or an art form; as a way to be in the spotlight; or as a road to local or wider fame.


Historically and currently, there have been and are a significant number of heterosexual men, generally actors, who perform in drag. There are also transgender or transsexual people, as well as straight women, who perform as drag queens.


Drag queens are sometimes called transvestites, although that term also has many other connotations than the term "drag queen." Drag queen" usually connotes cross-dressing for the purposes of entertainment or performance without necessarily aiming to pass as female.




It is not generally used to describe those persons who cross-dress for the fulfillment of transvestic fetishes alone, or whose cross-dressing is primarily part of a private sexual activity or identity. As for those whose motivation is not primarily sexual, and who may socialize cross-dressed, they tend not to adopt the typical over-the-top drag queen look.


Among famous straight entertainers who have dressed in drag are Milton Berle, Flip Wilson, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Eddie Izzard, Tyler Perry, Gene Hackman, John Travolta, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemon.  And Dennis Rodman, the NBA basketball player, has also dressed in drag.



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Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama