Dragged through the Coals

Drag. It is a form of expression that has helped people explore themselves and their identities for years. This form of self-expression has existed since at least the 1870’s, and possibly even longer. There has been a long history of Drag existing and shaping the world. However, recently, there have been many bills that have been introduced that promote the ending of Drag performances in public spaces. Many of the states that are proposing this idea specifically state that the shows would also not be allowed to happen anywhere near where children might be. If a person in Drag is in one of these spaces and performs, they could face a misdemeanor charge, or even a felony.  This goes to show that there is a continuous force working against the queer community. Drag is often performed by those in the LGBTQ community, although not always, and is seen as “immoral” by many conservative law makers. There is push back against those who would defy gender norms in favor of staying authentic to their true self’s.

Local drag queen, Genesis, dancing with a crowd member at "I, Too, Am JMU"
Local drag queen, Genesis, dancing with a crowd member at “I, Too, Am JMU”

            Although there are many different propositions to the various anti-drag legislations, there are some common themes. For example, most of the bills define Drag as “someone performing while using dress, makeup, and mannerisms associated with a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth.” This is a very problematic definition because there are many people out in the world who do not identify with the gender that was assigned to them at birth and will dress in clothing more akin to the gender that they do align with. This bill, alongside targeting those who do Drag, could also serve to harm those individuals who are trans, non-binary, or gender fluid. These individuals might not dress in clothing that is typically associated with the gender that was assigned to them at birth, and as such, they could possibly be faced with a charge.

Hillsborough High School students protest a Republican-backed bill dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” that would prohibit classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity, a measure Democrats denounced as being anti-LGBTQ, in Tampa, Florida, U.S., March 3, 2022. REUTERS/Octavio Jones

Many conservative political leaders do not acknowledge the existence of those people who exist outside of the gender binary, and as such, many conservative leaders see those who dress according to their true gender and not their assigned gender as “doing Drag,” even when these individuals are not doing drag, they are simply existing in clothing that fits their gender identity. Moreover, these bills continue to perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and binary’s that Drag was helping to break down. Stating that certain clothing should only be worn by men or by women insinuates that A) there are only two genders, and B) that clothing itself is inherently gendered, which is not the case. There is no inherent gender that goes along with certain clothing, as people were the ones to make clothing and then assign them to a certain gender and give them a certain meaning. For example, the only reason that we associate dresses with women, is because for centuries that is all we were allowed to wear, but that doesn’t mean that dresses are inherently feminine, we just associate it with femininity. However, if for centuries, men had been wearing dresses (which some men did), then we would most likely associate the dress with masculinity.

It is not that there is inherently a gender behind clothing, it’s our perceptions that make them gendered. So, we must work to break down those perceptions and binary’s and protect those that have been working at doing so for years. We must also work to ensure that everyone understand that people dressing according to their gender identity is in no way them doing Drag, rather they are living authentically.

2 thoughts on “Dragged through the Coals

  1. Gender is a performance and should be treated as such. I loved this article and your acknowledgment of the anti-trans legislation and how it is harmful to the LGBTQ+ community.


  2. I really appreciate that you mentioned the harm that this would cause the LGBTQ+ community


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