With even the most cursory of glances at the current cultural landscape, it is an undeniable fact: America has drag fever.
The premiere of the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race was met with much Internet fanfare, Sharon Needles' debut album is burning up the music charts, and viral videos featuring a bevy of bawdy queens are popping up weekly.
It's an almost unprecedented moment in the zeitgeist: The mainstream and the underground are finally kiki-ing, and it's delicious.
Because of this recent celebratory boom of all things drag, it came as no surprise to me when I took my seat at this past Tuesday's Bingo With a Twist in Pittsburgh to find the girl across from me staring slack-jawed at Marsha Monster Mellow, the show's cult drag hostess.
"Marsha's so glamorous and outrageous," the starstruck girl said to me. "I wish I could do what she does."
"Why can't you?" I asked. "Girls can do drag, too, you know."
"Oh, I couldn't," she said sheepishly. "It's just not done here. People wouldn't like it one bit."
However, that's where she's wrong. It is done. So, consider today's blog post a public service announcement for all those girls who aspire to be like boys who dress like girls.
Well, for them... and everyone else in between.
In the pantheon of drag, there are performers known as "faux queens." In the broadest sense they are "female impersonator impersonators," or, simplified: They're real girl drag queens. There are more of them out there than you think, too.
In fact, I think you know one. She's only one of the biggest drag queens in the world.
Her name is Stefani Germanotta, but she's probably known to you as Lady Gaga.
What, you didn't think that was drag? With those outfits? Please.
Stefani is the reality; Lady Gaga is the persona. That's what drag is all about: taking an attitude and making it into living flesh and blood. That's why when Gaga sings about being a drag and a queen, she does it with authority, because girl has the knowledge. Every time you see her or Nicki Minaj vamping around in a wig and a cupcake dress, make no mistake: That's drag.
But, OK, maybe you need more proof. I get it: Gaga's a megastar. How does she fall in line with the girls who want to be Marsha Monster Mellow? What about the girls who want to be like the drag queens on RuPaul's show?
Well, going beyond the fact that one of the most glamorous queens on the show is a woman (I'm looking at you, Michelle Visage), I'm here to tell you that there is a thriving culture of faux queens performing alongside their drag sisters nightly.
The Bay Area alone has the likes of Holy McGrail, Bea Dazzler, L. Ron Hubby and a number of other fantastic queens who just happen to be real women. In fact, the Scissor Sisters' own Ana Matronic used to perform drag at Trannyshack in San Francisco before her time with the band. These sisters are doin' it for themselves, and they're some of the best entertainers in the biz.
So, if you're a girl and you want to be a drag queen, I'm telling you: Honey, you can.
In fact, my only problem with faux queens is the name. The word "faux" suggests in some manner that these queens are fake, and that could not be farther from the truth. Drag is an illusion, it's glamor, but it is not gender. Drag goes beyond the simple confines of whether you're a boy or a girl. Drag is about using the extraordinary to celebrate life.
To that end, everything is drag.
RuPaul is oft quoted as saying, "You're born naked and the rest is drag," and that's true. When you get up in the morning and choose to put on a button-up shirt instead of a baggy sweater, you're deciding on the image you want to project to the world. That image becomes part of who you are, and that, in its way, is what drag is all about: wearing your expression and living your projection. To assume that the craft is merely limited to one gender dressing as another is to do a disservice to the very core of the art. While gender-bending is a very crucial aspect of drag and its history, it's important to remember that the celebration of self, sex and all that's outrageous that lives within us is the true foundation.
I know there are those in the community who are going to disagree with me, individuals set to the notion that "this is what drag is; this is what we do, period." Even in the subculture of a subculture, it becomes easy to fall back on what's known and the ideology of tradition. But remember, the core of this movement is about celebrating who we are and who we want to be. Major figures like Divine, Doris Fish and Leigh Bowery and groups like the Cockettes established themselves as legends because they didn't prescribe to the traditional ideals. They looked at what they were told was normal, even among their peers, and said, "No, I'd rather do it my way." Because they lived boldly, they changed everything.
So, I'm telling you: If you're a girl, boy, drag queen, drag king or anything in between, you can be who you want, and it certainly doesn't matter what other people think. Buck the system, because celebrating yourself in the face of everything not only makes you bold; it makes you beautiful. This doesn't just apply to the stage, either. When you suit up for your day, do it as if you're putting on the drag of your life...
...because you are.
Live it, wear it, and love it. You are your fantasy. So whether your bra is filled with birdseed or real boobs, you are every inch a queen. Claim your throne.