Drag is as old as Xenophon’s fear of women, but in our transgender, anti-binary age transvestism onstage can seem quaint, a relic from a shameful past when gay people adhered to certain patriarchal assumptions about what made a man and what made a woman. Although the work of such sui-generis theatre artists as Charles Ludlam—who was inspired, in part, by Hollywood archetypes and penny dreadfuls, stories in which sexuality was performed with ridiculous, automatic vigor—was hugely important in the nineteen-sixties, it doesn’t necessarily play well anymore. Gender politics has moved on from that kind of arch radicalism. As the options for drag performance have dwindled—and I’m referring here not to the kind of sleek crossover machinery you see on the TV program “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” say, but to the funky, crooked-wig, runs-in-the-stockings aesthetic that made Jackie Curtis such an unforgettable star—current drag luminaries, including Murray Hill and Lady Bunny, have fought back with work that emphasizes the anarchism of drag, how it confuses the line between what’s “natural” in show business and what’s too loud or “wrong.” (Last year, Lady Bunny wrote and staged “Trans-Jester,” a funny, rude, and smart piece about the trivialization of drag by the gender thought police.)
Read more at the New Yorker.