ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Drag Culture

A Little Rebellion

Drag culture in India, misunderstood as a Western import, is inherently political and tells untold stories of India’s diversity.

In 2009, an American reality television series called RuPaul’s Drag Race attained sudden popularity in a world that is largely queerphobic. It created a paradigm shift in our assumptions about drag as a mere guilty pleasure to an art of resistance that underlined the need for a change in our ideas of gender. Drag is a gender-bending art form in which a performer dresses up and wears make-up to exaggerate a specific gender identity usually perceived as that of the opposite sex. It is not only performed for entertainment but also as a form of self-expression and a celebration of LGBTQ+ pride. Drag shows were common in underground clubs when homosexuality was a criminal offence.

A typical drag show will have lip-syncing or dancing as well as extravagant clothes and make-up by the performers. Drag queens are usually men (often transwomen and non-binary people) who dress up in exaggerated “feminine” attire and make-up to present themselves as women, questioning the social basis of masculinity and femininity. Drag performers appropriate gender displays that are usually associated with traditional femininity and institutionalised heterosexuality. Drag has been performed since Shakespearean times when women were not allowed to watch or act in plays, so it was men who played the female roles in dramas. But later when women started performing in theatre, those women impersonators lost their significance. The term “drag” is believed to have originated from the long dresses of female characters that were dragged across the stage. “Queen” was a derogatory term for a homosexual male. However, both these terms are now owned and subverted by the LGBTQ+ community.

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Updated On : 2nd Sep, 2022
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