University of California, Santa Barbara’s Queer Student Union hosted a presentation as part of Humyn Right’s Week on Tuesday, Nov. 12, on the magnificence of drag culture and the rapid changes the drag community has been witnessing in the past couple years.
The club invited Athenna Anastasia Lunaire to speak about the history of drag culture, starting from its roots in theater-related cross-dressing. As a result of its beginnings, drag has always been a performance-based art.
In the mid 1900s, when the drag culture first began to establish itself in the United States in popular New York clubs such as Studio 54 and groups like James St. James’ Club Kids, drag consisted of fabulously exaggerated costumes, make-up, and big parties. After that, it expanded to the New York Ballroom Scene, underground clubs, and the house system, and provided a place for queer people of color to express themselves within the drag community.
Several of the drag families started in the later 1900s are still active. Since then, drag has only grown, and it continues to establish itself and its importance in a heteronormative society. Modern drag culture includes everything from drag shows and queens to those preferring the drag persona. It has established itself in the fashion industry with competitive television series such as RuPaul’s Drag Race, fashion designers such as Marco Marco, and various other artists.
Drag is no longer limited to the underground clubs of New York and has expanded to several aspects of society. And while there are the dangers of appropriation and exploitation by a capitalist industry, drag only continues to grow.