The Drag Paradox




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Why are so many of us intent on defining ourselves in terms of those anatomically well-protected, discrete, and proportionally insignificant parts of our bodies we choose to keep covered up in the first place? Drag, the deliberate performance of gender contrary to societal expectations related to genitalia, cannot be defined in terms of any one construct, though the essential nature of such performances, however elusive the mapping may be, is constant. Because drag represents a transgressed boundary between masculinity and femininity, the act of accessing this transgressed boundary in and of itself provides agency because the performance of drag is a permeable visage where a supposed gender reality is simultaneously revealed and obliterated through an artificial performance. This thesis will enact a study of drag from three perspectives. First, a theoretical framework will be established largely by reviewing the work of Judith Butler and Judith Halberstam. Second, Tony Kushner's Angels in America will be reviewed to illustrate the role of the audience in relation to the performance of drag. Finally, the role of identity and audience will be examined from the field work enacted at the 1851 Arlington, where weekly drag shows take place every Friday and Saturday night.