Essay on Don't Be a Drag, Just Be a Queen

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The figure of the drag queen is pivotal in understanding transgenderism and issues related to gender. Drags are places where femininity or masculinity is performed by opposite sexes. The film, Paris is Burning, directed by Jennie Livingston, is a valuable source for understanding issues including race, gender and otherness. The film touches upon the lives of black gays and transsexuals who live in New York and constitute a subculture, which is differentiated from heteronormative culture in a given society. The film depicts the culture of gays and transsexuals, who are African American or Latin, who perform femininity through drag. Also, drags offer a sense of community which creates a space of belonging for individuals who are marginalized by society because they do not conform to the expectations of the dominant culture. Drags are defined by appearing as a straight woman or man which gives important clues about how they understand femininity and how to define and categorize gender. Thus, in Jennie Livingston’s film Paris is Burning, drag queens are symbols of transgression of the white, male heterosexist culture Leo Bersani describes in “Loving Men.” It can be seen that gays and transsexuals in the film have a conservative attitude regarding gender and femininity, equating being a woman with beauty, wealth and whiteness, in keeping with the standards dictated by patriarchal heterosexist society.
Gays and transsexuals establish “drags” and “houses” to define their rules freely in an environment where they are committed to each other. In drags, femininity is performed through male bodies, which brings an innovative question to the forefront; whether gender is a performance or not. The individuals in the film are born as male but i...

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...conservative ideas about femininity because they depend on traditional institutions to be welcomed by society. They associate femininity with being beautiful and white, which are standards of heterosexual, patriarchal, white culture.

Works Cited

Bersani, Leo. “Loving Men.” Constructing Masculinity. Ed. Maurice Berger, Brian Wallis, and Simon Watson. New York and London: Routledge, 1995. 115-123.
Butler, Judith. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. Florence, KY, USA: Routledge, 2011. 1-250.
Dean, Tim. Beyond Sexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. 14.
hooks, bell. Reel to Real: Sex and The Class At The Movies. New York: Routledge, 1996. 1-244.
Livingston, Jennie, dir. Paris is Burning. Miramax Films, 1991. Film.
Rupp, Leila, and Verta Taylor. Drag Queens at the 801 Cabaret. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. 1-256.

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