Corsets, Headpieces, and Tape: An Ethnography of Gendered Performance

Rachel B. Friedman, Adam Jones


Drag queens co-construct their identities in order to become part of one segment of the gay community referred to as the drag queen community. We argue that to act in the identity of a drag queen is to maximize the contrast with ascribed gender identity and minimize the distortion thereof. We adapted Tajifel and Turner’s (1979) Social Identity Theory to provide us with the necessary framework, but we built upon Goffman’s dramaturgical metaphor and Carbaugh’s ideas on social identification. We conducted several interviews with the different performers before and after the drag shows over several weeks. As part of our findings, in order for the drag queens to communicatively create their group identity, there is a certain degree of behavior and attitude conformity. There is an importance placed upon the likeness or dependence/reliance on one another (i.e. a sense of community), and last, there is internalization of these behaviors, exerted both individually and collectively. This helps to solidify their sense of community and belonging through ritualistic behaviors and allows the individuals to gain a better understanding of who they are personally and socially through this membership.
Key words: Social Identification; Gender Identity; Drag Queen Culture

Resumé: Les drag queens co-construisent leurs identités pour devenir partie d'un segment de la communauté homosexuelle appelée la communauté des drag queens. Nous affirmons qu'agir dans l'identité de drag queen est de maximiser le contraste avec l'identité de genre attribué et minimiser la distorsion de celle-ci. Nous avons adapté la théorie de l'identité sociale de Tajifel et Turner (1979) afin de nous fournir un cadre nécessaire, mais nous avons construit la métaphore dramaturgique de Goffman et les idées sur l'identification sociale de Carbaugh. Nous avons mené plusieurs entretiens avec de différents artistes avant et après les spectacles sur plusieurs semaines. En tant qu'une partie de nos résultats, nous avons trouvé que pour que les drag queens puissent créer leur identité de groupe, il y a un certain degré de comportement et d'attitude de conformité. Il y a une importance accordée à la ressemblance ou la dépendance/confiance entre les uns les autres (c'est à dire un sentiment de communauté), et enfin, il y a une internalisation de ces comportements, exercés à la fois individuellement et collectivement. Cela contribue à solidifier leur sentiment de communauté et d'appartenance à travers des comportements rituels et permet aux individus de mieux comprendre qui sont-ils personnellement et socialement par le biais de cette adhésion.
Mots-clés: Identification Sociale; Identité de Genre; Culture de Drag Queen


Social Identification; Gender Identity; Drag Queen Culture;Identification Sociale; Identité de Genre; Culture de Drag Queen


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