The Important Reason These Drag Queens Are NOT Gay Men

May 29th 2016

With the popularity of "RuPaul’s Drag Race," drag has arguably become mainstream. Even set against the complex and ugly backdrop of current events — like North Carolina’s discriminatory law limiting bathroom access to transgender people — the show has reached a wide audience, including a straight demographic.

For many viewers, drag simply means a man dressing up as a woman, albeit an exaggerated version of a woman, or presenting as a different gender. Drag lives to poke holes in the artifice of fixed identity and gender, The New York Times argued.

But is drag still radical when a women does it?

Courtney Conquers in dragCourtney Conquers

Female drag queens — also known as “ladyqueens,” “bioqueens,” “hyperqueens,” or the more controversial “faux queens” — would say so.

Courtney Conquers doing her makeupCourtney Conquers

“Drag is anything that explores identity in any way and fucks with expectations of gender,” said Courtney Conquers, a self-proclaimed bioqueen and co-founder of the female drag collective Drag Coven, in an interview with ATTN:.

Conquers — who was introduced to the world of drag through "Drag Race" and has performed in drag for a year and a half — finds several elements of drag empowering as a woman.

“Drag is body positive, and in drag, you can create your own family, based on love and networking,” Conquers said. “Drag also associates intelligence and wit with femininity, and there aren’t a lot of forums that make that connection in a positive way.”

Courtney Conquers in mermaid dragCourtney Conquers

If drag is an art form embodying hyper-femininity, women offer a unique and valuable perspective.

“Speaking in a woman’s body and from a woman’s perspective, drag is taking all those things society tells you that you have to look like — ‘You have to have long hair.’ ‘You need to be pretty.’ — and flushing it down the toilet,” said Crimson Kitty, a female drag queen and founder of LadyQueen University, a workshop “designed to turn any lady into a drag queen.”

Crimson Kitty in dragCrimson Kitty

These women express solidarity with their fellow drag queens, but they have experienced some backlash, both online and in real life, based on the criticism that they are co-opting gay culture.

A Reddit thread posing the question “How do you feel about faux queens?” included the following response:

screenshot from reddit threadreddit

Crimson Kitty, who has been performing drag for more than five years, has heard the accusations and comments before.

Crimson Kitty in dragCrimson Kitty “We’re always going to have a different point of view,” said Crimson Kitty. “To a degree, drag queens are mocking women – and I don’t think they’re being disrespectful – but why can’t we as women do the same?”

Other responses in the Reddit thread expressed similar sentiments:

reddit screenshotreddit

reddit screenshotreddit

“For me, I want to see drag that’s all about transformation, and even if you’re a female entertainer, you can do that as well,” said Erika Klash, a male drag queen who has performed with Crimson Kitty, in an interview with ATTN:.

Erika Klash and Crimson KittyErika Klash

“When we have a female-bodied person doing drag, we’re allowing her to engage in a conversation that gay men are celebrating and things they’re subverting – gender norms, misogynistic behavior, catcalling — to say men can only be involved is completely missing the point,” Klash said.

Crimson Kitty in dragCrimson Kitty

For women, specifically, drag can be an act of resistance to the male gaze and against the pressure of ideal beauty standards.

“It’s important for women to express themselves however they see fit – through drag, we’re creating our own version of ourselves.” – Crimson Kitty

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Would you want to see a female drag queen perform?

No 19%Yes 81%