No Gay Pride parade would be complete without drag queens, just as it would not be complete without a few Dykes on Bikes and some leathermen.
Drag takes on many forms – from “high art” female impersonation to wild genderfuck and anything in between. First, the “high art”. I use that term very loosely, but what I mean by that is this kind of drag aims to present the illusion that you are in fact looking at a woman. Granted, an exaggerated pastiche of a certain kind of woman, but the intent is to present an illusion that maybe-kinda-sorta-in-dim-light-and-a-disco-soundtrack could be believed. When in drag, these queens refer to themselves (or at least the characters they inhabit) in the feminine. Their presentation is not just appearance, though, but it is performance – singing, dancing, acting. While Miss Gay Virginia is not exactly seductive in her appearance, she’s got a title which means she can do more than slap on a wig and paint up a face.
A specialty in illusion drag is celebrity impersonation. Were it not 30 years on and on the streets of Washington DC instead of a movie lot, I could believe I’m looking at Tina Turner in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
Then you have non-professional drag queens like this one. I’ve seen her at other drag events like the High Heel Race before. She may be someone who qualifies as a transvestite, not a drag queen, and gets dressed up as a woman because she enjoys it and identifies with it. Definitely not a straight guy putting on a wig and a dress as a Halloween lark. She’s in many ways more believable than the pros because she isn’t painting her face to look good in stage lights.
Then there’s genderfuck. The general idea of genderfuck is playing around with, crossing, and even destroying preconceived norms of what any one gender is expected to conform to. Anything from some glitter, some makeup and a pair of purple fairy wings…
… to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The Sisters are a national (perhaps even international) organization that combines radical, politically charged drag (men with painted faces, beards, and nun’s habits, with drag names like Sister Imprudentia Vaginismus) and charitable fundraising and volunteer activity. They manage the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco every year, and the proceeds go to HIV/AIDS charities.
This is by no means a complete or exhaustive survey of what drag is, or the practitioners at the parade this year. And if you ask 10 drag queens what drag means, you’ll come up with at least 20 answers, depending on how many cocktails they’ve had before you ask.