Can Females really be Drag Queens? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Can Females really be Drag Queens?

Life&Style's Dean Mobbs dispels some of the misconceptions around the term 'Drag Queen' in the modern day

Defining a drag queen is hard for some people. Many are plagued with questions that a lot of us feel too afraid to ask. Are they just men in wigs and makeup? Actors? I’ve even heard it said that they’re lost souls searching for their places in the world – in the modern day, it’s really not that deep. So, let’s try and break this down. Put simply, ‘drag’ is not defined by gender, sex, or who you want to have sex with. In fact, ‘drag’ can involve any gender, but that doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Historically speaking, drag used to refer to the skirts of transvestites ‘dragging’ across the ground. Now, if you think about that, drag explicitly refers to men dressing as women (it wouldn’t be transvestism if a girl was wearing skirts now, would it?). I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this, but humour me. Male transvestism has also been tied to drag acronymically, supposedly meaning ‘dressed resembling a girl’. Whilst not explicitly male, it was only ever used against a male, and so I don’t know about you, but it seems as though an argument is definitely being built, and it’s shaping up to be fairly one-sided.

I guess many people would see this as an outdated way of looking at drag. After all, if we can change the meanings of the words gay, sick, wicked etc., then why shouldn’t drag adapt with the rest of language? Unless you’re stuck in the 18th century, accepting the alteration of this word shouldn’t be too difficult, and yet there are still people who refuse to accept female drag queens: the irony in this hasn’t been overlooked, but it has been swept under the carpet by those who feel an arguable ownership over the labels that their gay ancestors fought for. In laymen’s terms, they’re sick of people stealing what many have fought to possess with a sense of pride! Nothing affronts a minority more than having their ‘property’ taken by a group who played a part in its pejoration and subsequent derogation – something that women did not take a backseat in. It’s widely known that many of those in the 18th century weren’t particularly fond of those who didn’t fit into the heteronormative society; ‘drag’ wasn’t a cute, loving nickname for male transvestites, was it? And now, as the word was embraced and the term ‘drag queen’ started popping up all over the media, some have argued that straight people want their property back. As queens have grown proud of their roots, some feel closer and closer to a battle over their newly appointed thrones.

Now, it seems as though the deeper we get, the more neutrality to the subject is lost, so let’s take a closer look at drag; perhaps there is more to female drag queens than meets the eye. And where does the term ‘bio-queen’ fit into all of this? Maybe an insight into both those who seem somewhat closed minded, and those who are as welcoming as they are fierce is needed (I’m sure you’ll find yourself nodding along eventually).

Nothing affronts a minority more than having their ‘property’ taken by a group who played a part in its pejoration and subsequent derogation
Quintessential drag is about creating the illusion of a woman. Well, surely it is acceptable to ask how a woman can create the illusion of a woman. Many of us queens have spent years trying to be someone we’re not, for fear of hardship and brutality, and yet some have chosen to try and make a living out of pretending to be a woman two or three nights a week in the local gay bar. But when females started doing it, rightfully, gay minds everywhere have stopped to ask the question: why use ‘drag queen’? Whilst we appreciate how sickening and glamorous these girls look, it’s much harder to appreciate a woman pretending to be a man, who pretends to be a woman. We all remember that part in Wuthering Heights when they reveal a story within a story right? And we all remember the confusion that followed; this is kind of the same thing isn’t it? Especially when you find out – wait for it – that there is already a legitimate name for these girls. A ‘bio-queen’ is essentially a female drag queen, so why was it necessary to call themselves anything different? I guess the short answer is that it wasn’t necessary at all.

Something else to think about is what the titles imply. For example, a drag queen generally has to cinch, pad, buff, stuff, spackle, and pray to the almighty for a feminine figure. This isn’t the case for the bio-queen, and so such a differentiation is surely required so that we know what we’re getting in a club. Can anyone else see the words ‘false advertisement’ in their heads? I know I can. I think it’s fair to say that many think the transformation from a hairy, muscular, boxy man into a curvy, vivacious, feminine body is one of the best parts of drag. I can’t imagine many people would agree to pay the same amount for that, as they would to watch a corseted female wear a little extra makeup whilst lip-syncing to a Whitney classic. Come on guys, this is not an attack on bio-queens, but it is an attack on the names that bio-queens have chosen to declare as their own: a drag artist is literally defined as someone who dresses in clothes opposite to their gender, not someone who accentuates their own.

Right, I think it’s time to take a deep breath. Whilst bio-queens are accepted, the female drag queen isn’t in all places. Some agree and some don’t, but I cannot omit the one argument that counts here and it might be an oldie, but it’s certainly a goodie. We can certainly all agree that it would be crazy for a community that fights for inclusion every single day to even consider turning their back on a group of people. Sometimes the irony of a situation is funny, but I think this is a bit ridiculous. Yes, the acceptance of the queens is not under question, but nobody can explain how the refusal of female drag queens is deemed understandable, and yet, for some reason it’s an outlook that is well-recognised within the LGBT community. I guess it’s fair to say that perhaps us queens aren’t as accepting as we’d like to think, and while some of us perpetuate that more than we should, it really does have to change. I mean, we can’t expect every straight person to accept us if we persecute every woman who wants to lip sync to Cher or Madonna. I guess it’s fair to say that if a woman wants to hop on the express train to Dragville, nobody has the right to say no, right?

Perhaps us queens aren’t as accepting as we’d like to think, and while some of us perpetuate that more than we should, it really does have to change
Well actually, if LGBT elites have fought year upon year for the acceptance of all things ‘drag’, then who wants to see the names changing right before our very eyes? It’s unfair, and almost offensive to those who came before the ‘Drag Race generation’. If girls really want to do their version of drag, then why not embrace bio-queen? I’m really not telling anybody what to do: wear as much makeup as you want and block out your eyebrows ‘till the cows come home, but don’t take it too far and change what it means to be a drag queen; the term that was coined by those it was originally and unwillingly thrust upon. Support us in the clubs and on the television, but leave the term ‘drag queen’ to those who have earned the right to call themselves one through years of oppression.

Now of course, make no mistake that the acceptance of drag in this modern age is beautiful and loving, and no queen would change it for the world. But this support has changed drag into something it’s not – a free-for-all. Ask any of those before us who were beaten and shunned for their art. If anybody wants to be a queen, then have at it! However, let’s be respectful of the LGBT community and mind the feelings of those who have fought long and hard to be accepted as one. And so, whilst this is a welcome to everybody on behalf of queens everywhere, it is also a reminder that titles and names count: learn your history, and stick to your side of it.

Article by Dean Mobbs



29th June 2017 at 9:00 am

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