Drag queens are performers - usually gay men, sometimes transgendered women - who dress in drag, clothing associated with the female gender, usually highly exaggerated versions thereof. Drag queens often do drag to perform, singing or lip-syncing and dancing, participating in events such as gay pride parades, cabarets, discotheques, and other celebrations and venues.
Female-bodied people who perform in usually exaggerated men's clothes and personae are called drag kings, though this term has a wider meaning than drag queen.
Drag is a part of Western gay culture - drag queens fought at the Stonewall riots in June 1969, and drag shows are traditional at pride parades. Prominent drag queens in the lesbigay community of a city often serve as official or unofficial spokespersons, fund-raisers, chroniclers, or community leaders.
Non-western cultures have traditions similar to drag, often existing among their GLBT communities; the western notion of drag is also becoming more common in non-western GLBT communities.
performs at Mascara: La nuit des drags
- Some drag queens either do not perform or perform only rarely. Their forte is participating in pageants, hence the term pageant queen. Pageant queens gear their act toward winning titles and prizes in various contests and pageantry systems. Some of these have grand prizes that rival those of pageants such as Miss America.
- Bio-queens are non-transgendered women who perform the exaggerated feminine personae of drag queens (or else impersonate a male drag queen). Many bio-queens look to drag queens as role models. Bio-Queens should be distinguished from fag hags.
Drag Shows and Venues
A drag show consists of a variety of performances by a group of drag queens meant to entertain an audience. They range from amateur performances at small bars to elaborately staged theatrical presentations at venues created for the very purpose of said show. In many countries, these shows are known as travesty shows, and the performers not as drag queens, but "travesty" or "transvestite" artists. Though there are variants to a drag show, the following are almost always definite:
- In most shows, the performing artists will lip synch to a song (or several songs) while performing a pre-planned pantomime. If the song is a ballad, a dramatic interpretation will accompany it; if it is up-tempo, the performer will dance. In shows where the performers actually sing, the accompanying show is usually less pronounced.
- In many areas, the audience is encouraged (or even expected) to tip each performer by approaching the stage perimeter and handing her a dollar bill (or more); this money rarely means a profit for the performer, who uses these tips to pay for costumes, wigs, make-up and more.
- The performers will be in elaborate costumes that are either comical, glamorous or specifically catered to resemble the ensemble of a specific performer whose song they are performing.
The term drag queen originates in Polari, the language of gay men in England in the early part of the last century. Drag meant "clothes", and was also theatre slang for a woman's costume worn by a male actor. A queen is an effeminate gay man.
Another term for drag queen, female impersonator, is common in some areas, but considered dated in others. Drag queens are generally not literally "female impersonators" in that they do not attempt to pass as women. Female impersonation, under that name, used to be illegal in many places, which inspired the famous drag queen JosÚ Sarria to hand out labels to his friends reading "I am a boy," so they could not be accused of female impersonation.  American drag queen RuPaul famously said "I do not impersonate females! How many women do you know who wear seven-inch heels, four-foot wigs, and skintight dresses?"
Most drag queens prefer to be referred to as "she" while in drag. Many performers protect their character quite vigorously and will be offended if they are referred to as "he" or by their legal name while they are in drag.
Some people interpret "Drag" as being an acronym for DRessed As a Girl, and use Drab, DRessed As a Boy, for "female body, male garb" variety.
Drag and transgender
Most drag queens perform for 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.
Drag queens are sometimes called transvestites, however, transvestism is a word with many different meanings, most of which do not apply to or include Drag queens. Drag queens do not do drag for reasons of sexual pleasure, and are also not transvestic fetishists, people who have a sexual fetish for the clothing of another gender role. Furthermore, most people who are called or self-identify as transvestites are heterosexual men, whereas most drag queens are gay or transgendered.
Also, there is a (small) community of female-bodied drag queens, who may have one of several gender identities, with queer being rather common.
Drag itself is often thought of as part of transgenderism because it subverts gender roles. However, most drag queens are cisgendered gay men (that is, they identify, appear, and are embodied as men) in the remainder of their lives when not in drag.
Nevertheless, a number of people identifying as transgendered or transsexual women perform as drag queens, and a number of drag queens who do not identify as transgendered regard drag as being an important part of their understanding of their gender identity.
Drag queens are often rejected by parts of the transgender community - especially, but not exclusively, by many transsexual women - because those people are afraid that they might be stereotyped as Drag Queens, too, which they are not. (Canadian transgender activist Star Maris wrote a song entitled I'm Not A Fucking Drag Queen to express her feelings on the subject.)
Some feminists believe that drag promotes harmful stereotypes of women. Most drag artists would respond that drag is a very specific aesthetic and is not meant to satirize women in general. Many gender theorists see drag as a subversion of gender roles.
Some members of the lesbigay community also disdain drag queens. Some are distressed by the participation of drag queens in pride parades, believing that this projects a harmful image of the lesbigay community and impedes acceptance. However, others see this point of view as intolerant of the diversity in the community, and still others simply regard drag as traditional fun that need not be politically analyzed.
Famous drag queens
Some of the more well-known drag performers include: