Drag is bringing together the LGBT community now more than ever. Over the weekend of April 29, 44,000 people gathered at the Los Angeles Convention Center to celebrate the art form of drag. Drag is a form of self-expression, consisting of men dressing as women. RuPaul’s DragCon was a place for everyone from all over the country to show their individuality and be appreciated for who they are no matter their body type, sexual orientation. During a panel called ‘Drag in Trump’s America’ season 8 winner of RuPauls Drag Race, Bob the Drag Queen, discussed how Drag Race is the “most important show on television” because there has never been a place for so many queer people to share their stories. In the same panel, Eureka O’Hara, contestant on season 9, discussed exposure in mainstream media: “I also love it because exposure is the biggest step to keep persecution and discrimination out of our younger generation. We look less weird to them as they grow older. I’m normal now!” This is a huge step for the LGBT community. Drag’s transition towards becoming more normalized in mainstream media has allowed it to shed light on issues of prejudice and inequality.
Throughout our time at DragCon, we saw how much love the drag community has brought to its audience.
Jessica Turner, a fan of the show, said, “With drag I feel it enhances the LGBT community because when I was growing up I had no idea what my sexual identity was or what my gender identity was.” After a brief moment she followed with “drag really brings a lot of positivity and light to that conversation and really just lets you express whoever you want to be and whatever you want to be.”
Another Drag Race super fan, Ana P. Hernandez, explained why she loves drag: “I think it’s just a force of good. I myself am queer and it’s just another form of expression.” She also added that she felt drag affected the LGBT community: “I just love how big and popular it is and how mainstream it’s getting so any kind of visibility is amazing and I’m right behind it.”
Transgender actress Candis Cayne, a featured judge on Drag Race, said that, “It’s important that we have this outlet for creative people. The world is changing and it’s an amazing change that is happening right now.”
During a panel I asked Cory Binney, the brother of the winner of All Stars 2, Alaska, how his brother doing drag affected his view on the LGBT community. He said that as a white straight man in the military he didn’t like that his brother was gay, and especially when he dressed as a woman. But, as he watched the show, he appreciated the art form and now has even spoken at DragCon and has friends who are queens.
We asked several queens how they think drag affects the LGBT community and what DragCon does for the community. Cynthia Lee Fontaine, contestant on season 8 and 9 answered, “I’m a case worker for HIV clients with substance abuse problems and mental health issues. I used to do drag for HIV test events so now that I’m on the show I think we’re breaking stereotypes of discrimination and helping our community.” Katya, a contestant from season 7 and All Stars 2, answered in a lighter manner “It provides mascots to weirdos, misfits, wackos, and the young gay people who don’t know who they are yet.” Trixie Mattel, from season 7, joked that “Dragcon is a fabulous thing because it reminds people that drag isn’t about being in a gay bar anymore. Drag is about underage white women from the suburbs!”
Sasha Velour, who is currently competing on season 9, told me that, “I think that so much of the LGBT community is about dealing with representing different types of gender and different ways of being male and female and genderqueer. Drag charts up the possibility for that and dreams up radical new ways to be beautiful and helps lift up everyone’s lives.” Hannah Conda, a queen hailing from Sydney, answered with “It’s like magic. It’s the bond that brings lesbians, gays, transgender people, and everything in between all together and it’s like the voice of the community. It’s such a magical art form.” Pearl, a queen from season 7, responded short and sweet with “It’s an amazing free open space where you can be yourself for the first goddamn time in your life.”
To end the event RuPaul had a keynote packed full of queens and fans where he touched on the key to life, which he says is loving yourself. RuPaul’s DragCon was a weekend for people to feel inspired, express themselves, and meet their favorite queens. We had such a great time and can’t wait for DragCon to come back to Los Angeles.
It was announced that the event will be coming to New York September 30th-October 1st and returning to Los Angeles in the spring of 2018.
Photos by Taylor Santiago and Breanna Cormier