Drag Around the World

Abstract

When someone from the United States thinks about drag, they may not think about it on a more global scale.  The performance of drag is not something that only happens in the United States.  Drag is performed in a variety of different ways, in a variety of different places.  The current research is focused on aspects of drag and drag artists in Brazil, Berlin, Thailand, South Africa, and Australia.

Brazil

In Balzer’s 2005 journal in Paideuma, the popularity of drag in many areas was attributed to the major success RuPaul had in the year of 1993.  The major success of RuPaul inspired drag artists all over the world in the years that followed.  In the late 1990s, the mayor of New York at that time revoked the licenses of clubs featuring drag artists which caused many drag artists to flee to either California or Europe.  Even though gay bars, featuring drag balls, started opening in Brazil in the 1950s and 60s, drag queens did not become popular in Brazil until the early 1990s. Some drag artists are referred to as “transformistas” while others are referred to as “travesties”.  Transformistas are more glamorous, admired by society, and seen as entertainers.  Travestis are seen as sex workers and are considered undesirable.  More recently, a different kind of drag has emerged, known as “cybernetic”.  Cybernetic drag is futuristic and comedic.  It is common for some heterosexual talk show hosts to present themselves in drag as a form of entertainment in Brazil.


Berlin

Balzer (2005) also discusses drag in Berlin.  Berlin also has two different types of drag artists.  One is called a drag queen while the other is called a “tunten”.  Drag queens often present themselves as being classy and often resemble people like Marilyn Monroe and pop stars.  Tuntens are not considered to be classy and often resemble more of an ordinary person.  Drag artists in Berlin do not see themselves as impersonating females, but expressing their feminine side.  Tunten culture started in the 1970s and was very influential in the gay rights movement in Berlin.  The word “tunten” actually started as a homophobic slur.  Tunten went from being a huge part of the gay rights movement, to becoming a minority when the gay community of Berlin decided to go in a different direction that excluded drag artists.

Tunten style of drag

https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-dsseldorf-germany-tunte-lauf-drag-queens-celebrating-carnival-35099287.html

As compared to a Berlin drag queen

https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/249246160612345915/


South Africa

In McCormick’s 2018 journal in Gender and Language, there has been interesting research done about the history of drag in South Africa. In the 1950s and 60s, the South African media portrayed drag artists as freaks and as disgusting.  The media made them into outcasts.  In the early 1990s, drag became more of a topic of debate, which just so happens to be when South Africa became a democracy and also around the time that drag artists around the world were starting to become successful.  During that time, it was heavily debated whether drag artists were more helpful or harmful to the homosexual community.  Drag was seen as harmful because most homosexual men tried to act as “normal” as possible to avoid judgment, even at pride marches.  Anything too out of the norm could give the whole community a bad reputation.  Others saw performing drag at pride marches as a way of having more visibility.  Performing and competing drag is more uncommon in South Africa.  It is more common for homosexual men to dress in drag as part of their daily lives.

Miss. Drag South Africa pageant 2018

https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/fashion-and-beauty/2019-03-13-miss-drag-sa-reveals-what-itll-take-to-snatch-her-crown-in-the-2019-pageant/


Australia

In Butorac’s 2019 article in The Feed, Butorac is investigating a certain type of drag in Australia.  In Australia, children performing drag is a hot button topic right now.  Brierley Smith is a popular child drag queen in Australia right now.  He goes by the drag name of Pink Sasss.   The audience really enjoys Pink Sasss’ performances.  Children performing drag has become more and more popular in Australia, even though it was inspired by a child drag queen in America.  Desmond is Amazing is a child drag queen in America that has inspired child drag queens in Australia.  Child drag queens have mixed reviews in Australia.  Some believe that it is okay for children to play dress-up with one another, but they should not be performing in front of adults.  Some people believe educating children on the social construction of gender may confuse them.  However, others believe children performing drag and having an education of gender could help them explore their own gender identity and express themselves in different ways.  Some people support children performing drag, but think maybe it should be called something besides drag so it is not confused with a sexualized, adult version of drag.

Pink Sasss

https://www.google.com/search?q=pink+sasss&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS762US762&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwinwqKb3PjhAhULXa0KHaWmAjoQ_AUIDygC&biw=1280&bih=587#imgrc=L0H9ci6wT6SyJM:


Thailand

Holden reveals in his 2018 article on BBC News that a Thai spin-off of RuPaul’s Drag Race.  Thailand is the first country to air its own version of RuPaul’s Drag Race.  The Thai version is very similar to RuPaul’s version, but has two famous Thailand drag queens as the hosts.  The most recent winner shot lasers out of pieces she was wearing on her wrists, which is not something typically seen in the United States.  The Thai queens perform to popular American songs and believe that the blending of cultures is something that makes their drag unique.  A problem that drag artists in Thailand face is that some people do not know the difference between a drag artist and a show girl.  In Thailand, a show girl is the equivalent to a sex worker.  Even though drag is still seen as bizarre by some, drag is accepted by most and the gender binary is not as prominent in Thailand as it is in the United States.

Thailand’s version of a televised drag competition show

https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-43680869

3 thoughts on “Drag Around the World”

  • This is one of my favorite posts because it included all kinds of cultures and ethnicites of drag. It is interesting to see how different parts of the world feel about drag besides America. Your pictures really help to show the difference in these countries and their drag. I also liked how you included countries from every continent instead of focusing on just one side of the globe.

  • Oh my gosh! I loved this! Your blog post does an excellent job showing us not only how different drag is beyond the United States, but what drag means in other countries across the globe. You make me want to travel to these places (and more) to see other drag performances and understand how these performances impact the drag artist and community.

  • I love this viewpoint of drag. It isnt focusing on just what we, in our class and America, know about drag but across the globe. Drag can be interpreted in a lot of different ways and this post shows that. Also, your including of different forms of drag stands out to me because it sets this apart from our stereotype of drag.

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