The Forgotten Queer History of Drag (feat. Bob the Drag Queen) – Beyond the Scenes | The Daily Show

By | January 10, 2023

Conservatives are outraged by kids’ exposure to drag shows and there’s been an increase in protests at drag events. But drag dates all the way back to ancient societies and Shakespearean theater. Host Roy Wood Jr. chats with the star of HBO’s We’re Here, Bob the Drag Queen, Princeton journalism professor, Channing Joseph, and author of the book, Drag: Combing Through The Big Wigs of Show Business, Frank DeCaro. They chat about Black and Queer trailblazers, the legacy of drag activism, and how representation from shows like Rupaul’s Drag Race has helped make drag more mainstream and builds allyship among its viewers. Bob also talks about his personal journey growing up in the south and the challenges he faced filming season 3 of We’re Here. Bob even gives Roy a drag queen name. #DailyShow #Comedy #podcast

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For over twenty-five years, the groundbreaking, Emmy and Peabody award-winning The Daily Show has entertained audiences each night with hilarious, provocative and insightful satire about our society that helps make sense of the world. The Daily Show redefined the late night show category on TV and, with an audience of over 44M across social media platforms, has become a launching pad for some of the biggest stars in entertainment.

This next chapter of this iconic franchise showcases its diverse news team of correspondents and contributors, including Ronny Chieng, Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulcé Sloan, Roy Wood Jr., Lewis Black and Jordan Klepper, comedy greats as guests hosts, and interviews with influential and emerging voices from across society.

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Hey welcome to beyond the scenes the Podcast that goes deeper into segments And topics that originally aired on The Daily Show this is what you gotta think Of this podcast says if the Daily Show Was tomato soup then this podcast is all The toppings you add to make the soup Even more warm and delicious with the Croutons and the crackers and the Grilled cheese you eat with the tomato Soup see now you're all cozy and you got The perfect ratio of liquid and carbs That's what this podcast is I'm Roy with JR We're crackers Bob the drag queen and I'm Roy Wood Jr And today we're talking about a segment On the show with correspondent Dulce Sloan where she talked about the history Of drag and the rise in protests and Threats directed at drag events and the Number of bills introduced by Republican Lawmakers seeking to prevent children From attending drag shows let's get a Quick clip Hello friends if you know me You know that I love me some drag it's Like sports but for people who don't Want to deal with any balls if you know What I mean but recently conservatives Have been acting like Dragon some brand New thing that liberals dreamed of to Turn your kids into glitter games Now while 18th century England gave us Drag queens 19th century America gave us

Drag balls it's the only time Queens Colonize the country and made it better One of the most famous drag performers At that time was a former enslaved African named William Dorsey the queen Swan Dorsey slayed so hard he went on to Become a pioneer of modern Ballroom Culture America's drag balls brought the Culture to the next level in Harlem they Became so popular that men and women Would come from all over to present Their looks to a panel of Judges pageant Style and you know there's something Comforting in knowing that even hundreds Of years ago people were telling someone To their face that they were a messy whose outfit is trash The Circle Of Life later on in the show I'll be Joined by some additional guests who are Going to help me dive into the history Of drag but first My fellow Pumpernickel is on the Microphone with me today please [Laughter] Oh RuPaul's Drag Race season 8 winner Hosted the podcast sibling rivalry and Star of HBO's we're here which just Launched his third season Bobby drag Queen welcome to beyond the scenes how Do you do I'm well thank you so much for Uh for asking thank you for having me And um and I'm really proud to now you Know yeah we have our our third season Of we're here our Emmy award-winning

Television show we're here I'm very very Proud of it what I appreciate about that Television program is that you don't Just tell the story of this world Strictly from liberal Enclaves as they like to say I've Flipped past one day and y'all was in Jackson Mississippi I thought oh my God We Jackson's pulling up in the South South That's the South Side that's cheese grit South oh yeah in places where they call What they call what they call it Mississippi we was in Mississippi honey In Mississippi That's like a drag queen down there what Would say Mississippi If you could as as Layman as you can for Our listeners who don't know explain Exactly what drag is that's how I Define Drag drag is uh blurring the gender line While creating art not all drag queens Do numbers not all drag queens dance not All drag queens scenes some drag queens Do comedy I know drag queen name Linda Simpson who takes photographs you know What I mean like if you uh people who Their people do dragon their whole thing Is just going to the club and just being Pretty and sitting there and hanging out And partying there are people who go up There and they do drama I'm a stand-up Comedian so you know when I do it me uh Bianca Del Rio

Um we do uh stand up comedy when we do a Flame Monroe When we do our drags and yeah and some Drag artists Um you know are are are women and some Are men and some are non-binary some are CIS women some are trans women Um some are cismond some are uh trans Men some are gay men there are some Straight men out there doing drag I know Everyone actually I don't know they Never heard of a straight drag queen While watching all the Tyler Perry Movies I'm like okay sure sure you never Heard of a straight drag queen okay got It let's let's go back to the beginning For you just in terms of your Introduction into the world of drag like What were some of your experiences like Early on like early in the take me back Bobby drag queen 1.0 but you wouldn't Even drag queen you was just Bob Potential drag queen to be so what does It mean when I was young my mom used to Actually own a drag bar my mom owned a Drag bar in Columbus Georgia called Sensations if you are a gen xer or a Boomer who was gay in the Columbus Georgia area in the 90s you probably Went to Sensations and you probably went To my mom's drag club and that's where I First uh heard of and and you know Encountered uh the species known as drag Queens when you first started drifting

Into the world of drag yourself did you Have representation that you have role Models were there other examples or were You navigating this world on your own on A complete fog so when I started drag it Was 2008 2009 Um and I was in New York City I was 22 23 years old and you know I was really Kind of just basing it off of what I see Because RuPaul's Drag Race it just Started on TV not a new drag from RuPaul And suong Fu and Priscilla Queen in the Desert and and you know movies like that Ruby Ruby heart is it what's the Ving Rams movie oh Holiday Heart Holiday Heart Holiday Heart Um but then by this time it was Something called repulse drag race it Was less characters of drag and more Like actual drag queens and I thought it Was just so interesting I was like so Impressed so then I went out and I got Myself some makeup and I went to the Local Club in my um called lavish Lounge It used to be being Queens also doesn't Exist as we keep talking most of the Clubs I'm going to mention especially After the pandemic a lot of them just Don't exist anymore so they're only in The minds of of people who were in these Spaces it was lavish Lounge in Astoria Queens and I remember going and seeing These queens and meeting I remember the Queen I met for the first time ever her

Name was Blackie oh was her name shout Out to blackio who I think is still Working in these streets like Jackie Onassis yeah her name was her name was Her name was Blackie oh nasty it was her Name actually And I started going out so I it was a Little bit of like what I saw on the Internet you know there was no Instagram Instagram hadn't even he hadn't even Been an Instagram yet there was no Instagram there was no there was no Facebook and the clubs and I would go to In what I saw on RuPaul's Drag Race Um so I was there was definitely some Representation Um but it was it was not as easy to find It today like it's so easy to find drag Queens today you can't throw a rock Without hitting hitting a wig you know You come from the south if you come from Columbus Georgia all the way up to New York how much of a culture shift was That or was it welcome because like Growing up in the South like how did the South shape your views on gender roles And like this drag hip blur gender lines And challenge strict gender Norms like Like talk to me a little bit about the Empowerment of it versus where you were What it was thought of where you were Versus where you went as a 22 year old It was way more open so when I was a kid And I grew up in the South so I did get

A lot of um gender roles and gender Norms based on me what it means to be a Man a lot of my raising is that instead Of focusing on what it meant to be an Adult I was often told what it meant to Be a man like as if there was this Really specific unique set of rules that Men had to follow that women didn't have To follow and vice versa women have to Do this and men can't do that and I've I Kept bucking against it I I never wanted To go by those rules I wanted I always Wanted to like go against that and do Something slightly different and and Challenging and that was it wasn't just Like I want it was just like I just Didn't feel comfortable with the idea That I had to do certain things just Because of what what's between my legs And how and what I was born with so now It's like so now I I literally have to Do this you know what I mean and as a Black man I already have that societal Expectation on me you know as a black Person you have to act a certain way you Can't do certain things I was also Giving a lot of respectability politics As a young black person you know a lot Of us were taught like you can't act Certain ways in front of white people Um that was like ingrained in me so when I got to New York City I was able to Release all of that and um and just do What felt comfortable to me I guess the

Cool thing about it is when you're in New York you're amongst your peers and You have this degree you have a support Network if nothing else talk just a Little bit about that part of it like Because it is not it's not necessarily Always the safest occupation if we're Just going to be 100 about it talk to me A little bit about first learning that Part of the game and you know who were The people or just how was the ecosystem In New York at the time that you were Coming up to start developing those Types of you know protections so when I Started going out to the clubs I met Just some of the like I mean talk about Like walking into a a bar or a club or a Place in general and meeting people You're like wow these are really my People like I actually found my people You know I started doing drag with Peppermint uh Frosty all these names are Gonna sound so funny to you all but to Me they're like oh friends peppermint Flossy flossy Frosty flakes honey Le Bronx race scandalo de la verga Um black heel nasty uh chandelier Um Shaquita these are all the the people That I you know pixie I've been throwing Up names are legendary this is keep Going these are all the people that I Was doing drag with and and and and well Even at like networks to help each other Get to our gigs on time and safely you

Know there'll be times where if you you Know taking a car in New York City is Very expensive this is even before Ubers First of all getting an Uber getting a Car as a drag queen sometimes is Impossible as a black dragon Queen Forget about it they're never going to Stop for you so you have to take the Train down so if I live in the Heights I'll stop by Harlem on the way to pick Up my friend Keisha car because Keisha Car doesn't want to ride the train by Herself either so I stop off at keys to The car and stop I grab Keisha and we go Down then we stop at you know maybe Frosty stop to grab her so we can get to The bar and Chelsea safely so we're all Like in a group together not traveling Alone and you have to factor that into Your travel time on a regular basis Oh yeah for sure for sure I mean the Uber it really changed the game because We were able to just call cars and if You if you had a good night we made Money if you didn't have a lot of if you Didn't make any money that night you Can't afford the Uber and you have to Take the train home anyway but yeah Traveling traveling in large groups is Very was a was a great way to keep safe Going back to that this idea that just To live your life you all had to Literally schedule what times you Congregated on the train so you could

Travel in numbers talk a little bit About drags history and activism and Speaking out on a lot of the That's out there in the industry have You been able to use drag as a vehicle For political activism as well early in My drag I was doing a lot of political Political activism I started a group Called drag queen weddings for equality With my friends we would go to Times Square and we would do these uh these Weddings these wedding demonstrations Where two drag queens would get married By a drag queen pastor and um we would Hand out wedding invites uh and the Wedding invites would have all this Information on the back about injustices To the queer community and then we would Do these these demonstrations where we Shout out more things and give people Calls to action and how they can you Know who they can call who they can talk To how they can make a change there's Also some some early arrest in my um in My drag career getting a getting Arrested in full drag from activism I Was one of those one of those activists You know and and and that certainly did Not start with me I mean if even even Back to the Compton cafeteria riots you Know drag queens drag artists gender Benders Um have been bucking against the system To create change for people not just for

Gay men but for and not just for queer People but for black people for Reproductive Rights uh immigration Rights even environmental I mean I know Queens were here you know saving the Wells you know like drag queens if there Is if there is a somewhere to put our Nose in something but we will put our Contour nose in your business honey After the break I want to talk a little Bit more about how the added television Exposure about the world of drag Um what the pros and cons are from shows Like RuPaul's Drag Race and your show We're here this is beyond the scenes We'll be right back Bob I want to ask you about the Television shows that have stepped into The mainstream now you know you have a Show like RuPaul's Drag Race which I'll say this and this is and I speak as An Alum of Last Comic Standing third Place 2010 check to check the Wikipedia I feel like adding a competition element To anything makes people more likely to Watch it it makes people more open to Immersing themselves in Worlds that they Don't necessarily care about simply Because you're seeing people who are Trying to be the best at it so like I Feel like RuPaul's Drag Race nailed that Coming off the heels of Top Model Essentially which I feel like was kind Of a precursor I'm not going to say that

The two are necessarily connected but There is similarities RuPaul has Acknowledged that drag race is inspired In part by uh Top Model and I think You're absolutely right I mean like even Just like nailed it you would never Watch someone poorly pick a cake but When you put when they're competing and You have someone hilarious like Nicole Buyer doing it's like yeah I'm gonna Watch people up cakes I would love Love to see that also I want to quickly Say to you you reminding me beyond the Scenes is a great drag name bionda oh Miss beyond the scenes I love her honey give it up it's beyond The scenes And then lift up the the lift up the Back skirt or some to see on the Things but no a show like RuPaul's Drag Race or even we're here like I feel like They've all helped push dragon to the Mainstream and you showcase a different Lens of queer like we're here is Different from drag racing that it's About the Nuance it's about the emotion These are reality shows and we haven't Even gotten it to scripted stuff like Pose or like but it's like What what do you think that those shows Helped do to change the perception of Queerness in America so The drag race fan base you think it's Just a bunch of gay people watching drag

Race but it's actually not all gay People a lot of straight people watch Drag race and then what ends up Happening is you have a lot of allies Watching drag race and drag race build On the air for six to 15 Seasons 16 Seasons now Um so what happens is these kids who are Watching drag race and they were young Are now allies adults who have children You know what I mean they're now full on Adults who have children who will also Be allies it's not like when I tell one Of my friends one of my friends who's Like a white uh content creator was like Who couldn't understand in 2020 why What's so important to say black lives Matter as a white person like why is it So important like why why can't I just Do my thing and not say this I was like You don't have to say it you don't have To say but I will say this if you do say It once you say black lives matter Because because you matter to so many Little white girls because you matter to Them then they hear you say black lives Matter now black lives matter to them Now we have a black lives matter Supporter in the house of a Karen or a Cop who might end up hurting a black Person or doing something like that so You're basically just spreading the word You know what I mean and I think that um And I think that's the the situation

That we're in right in right now that's How drag races change the the world of Understanding queer people in my opinion This also shows like hoes Cry For The Straight Guy RuPaul's Drag Race Legendary Um uh transformation uh there's so many Shows like this that put queer people in Front of People who are potential allies and let Them see that we're not out in these Streets doing something this weird Nefarious stuff that they think we're Trying to do we're just living Our Lives You think let them people touch it Because then you turn into one of them In the Bible said it's a doctor you know I always tell folks I was straight and Then I took the vaccine and now look at Me and then I then I got a booster and Now I'm non-binary so watch out for that Pfizer it'll get you good I don't I Don't I like the intersection of Anti-vaxx and homophobia I'm not even Sure if I'm supposed to laugh am I Allowed to laugh You sure I'll I'm gonna laugh later You can get me a camera So that's the positive benefits of the Show let's flip it to the negative side Because you know a lot of groups a lot Of organizations try to use these shows To springboard and justify their hatred And describe like as the exposure from

These shows also opened it up more to Hatred and discrimination for for Viewers you know like I know like like Just talk to me about we're here like What's that like Just being out on set shooting because If I'm a Daily Show correspondent at Something where like I was at a pro-gun Rally and they was not with your Boy I can imagine I can imagine so What's that like when you're out In places like Jackson Mississippi yeah In full drag with cameras like what type Of pushback have you faced with this Show I think they're real where people Don't uh appreciate appreciate is um the Reason why Jordan klepper can go into These spaces is because they don't know That he is not one of them until he Exposes himself but when you but but you Know but when Roy Walks Into these boys When Roy would you well they were like They're like we're not we know we know You ain't one of us And you black no absolutely not but They'll go up to Jordan clap because He's white and he's tall and and and and And you and women love us all white man They will go up there they'll go up There and tell them their whole life Story do they realize that he's and That's what I live before and I'm happy Go do that clever we happily every Time they have a meeting like we think

Clippers should go Do that one whenever I'm on the streets Like I just had an instance in Jackson Mississippi that is on the the second Episode of season three of we're here Where I'm well I'm just I'm just walking Down the street like I'm I'm not even in Drag I'm just walking down the street Looking and then all of a sudden they're Like oh there well there's one of them They're queers so they started yelling At me from across the street just for Walking around like they're throwing Completely basic accusations at me Um and they go what like this sounds Like a long this sounds like because it Doesn't sound like these are just one or Two syllable slurs you're saying it was Spitting whole phrases at you well no They were saying stuff like that they Didn't call me a per se but what They did do they called me a um a they Called me a pedophile they called me a Pervert they called me a creep all but All I was doing was just standing on the Street corner I mean I was holding a Purse so you know I was gay but I was Just standing on the street corner Holding a purse and from that from that From seeing that they they ascertained They came to the conclusion I was a Pedophile a pervert I was up to no good I wanted their kids and I was like I'm Literally just on this I was actually at

The time I was we had just finished Filming and they had put the cameras Down yet because they always just Ling Around a little bit I was like I'm gonna Get some ice cream around the street I Want to get ice cream I was literally Just looking for ice cream and then I Got like you know verbally assaulted by These by these guys so go up to I was Like I'm gonna talk to them I'm gonna Actually give you guys a little I'm Gonna talk and see what's going on and Of course they didn't want to they Didn't they didn't really want to talk They just wanted to sling their um Vitriol at me Um and call me names but but I was Interesting maybe like two or three of Them but the interesting about them is They actually weren't It's not like they were being supported Even in Jackson even the folks in Jackson were like can you what what is Wrong with y'all like we're not They're like everybody in Jackson ain't Doing this this is them we're good Country folk like yeah like this uh has It gotten beyond that has it been any Like type of death threats or threats of Violence on anything we have had we have Had we've had threats of violence for Sure on our show and luckily we do have Security detail everywhere we go you'll Find out in episode one we were going to

Have a reading of this book Angela my Drax is going to read some books to These kids and then they decided they Didn't want that to happen so they Called and threatened to uh they didn't Threaten to shoot the place up but they Said if you allow this to happen we will Show up and we carry and we'll cause a Scene So it was like kind of like veiled like That they were like we're not saying We're not saying we're gonna kill you But we're saying that we have guns we Carry and will be there So basically they threatened to do what Actually happened for real in Columbus Ohio when there was a drag show and a Bunch of right Wingers showed up open Carrying to intimidate people from Ever Coming to the show and the show Ultimately was canceled yeah and it Happened again recently a couple of days Ago some people showed up to a drag Event with guns and weapons Um which is so I never thought like my Adulthood is mostly New York City So being around people who are like Because New Yorkers like I've walked the Streets in full drag Practically every hour of the day I've Done something at brunch I've done Something I've gone home at three six A.m I've done the whole gamut and New Yorkers don't give a they don't

Care about you they're not looking at You they're not trying to find out which They just want to go to their place and Get back these other people these people Are going out of their way they're Driving miles and miles and miles to uh Do what I guess they think is right So then to that point then let's talk About how politicians have been able to Levy that vitriol and try and turn it Into votes and legislation and all of This nonsense like we've seen a wave of Anti-trans bills across the country and Now Republican lawmakers in several States Are trying to propose legislation to ban Minors from even showing up to the drag Shows like all that reading to the kids That would be you would literally go to Jail for that what do you think is the Motivation behind those types of bills And like why now why now all of a sudden Does there seem to be an uptick in this Type of legislation from the right Trying to get children banned from drag Shows is it is just a sneaky Ploy in my Opinion from right wing conservatives to Make it seem like all drag queens want Kids at their shows most of us don't Want your kids at your show does Your kid have a dollar does your kid Have money to tip we don't want your kid at our show there Are some people who want to read who

Want to read to kids but most drag Queens are not making I'm gonna like I Don't make any content for children I Don't I don't it's like it's like Stand-up comedy most stand-up comedians Don't want kids at their shows now there Are some comedians who make comedy that Will be suitable for children yes there Are some comedians who may make and it Is a very small it is a tiny group of Comedians Brian Regan yeah there's like three out there making making comedy For kids you know what I mean but the Truth is most comedians don't want to Look down and see a kid at their Show and and most directly the same way But when you are um but then when your Interviews now even even though I don't Want kids at my show I now have to Defend why kids should be allowed at Drag shows even though I don't want Dr Even though I don't want kids in my show this is crazy this is it is Such a sneaky little tactic that they Use to so now I'm defending something That I don't even want but I think there Are some drag artists who are completely Appropriate for children I'm not one of Them that's why I don't have kids in my Shows okay so then if the kid angle is The smoke screen what do you think is The real reasons for the legislation Transphobia transphobia and misogyny and

Trans misogyny it is all just thinly Veiled homo phobia transphobia and Attempts to push trans people into Non-existence first they don't want Trans people Um in the bathrooms So now now you can't use bathroom unless You're at home you have to wait till you Go home to use the bathroom which is we've all had to rush to use The bathroom somewhere running to Somewhere use the bathroom real quick And then they say well you can't mention Any of it at school if you're if you're Trans at school you better be hiding so Now if you're a teacher if you're a Student if you're if you're a principal If you're a janitor you cannot mention That you're trans or even that you know Trans people because of things like they Don't say gay Bill and now they don't Want you to be able to be to work Anywhere they're trying to just push you Back into hiding in a closet because They don't want to see you in public at All and it starts with the bathroom they Put you out of the classroom they push You out of this they push you out of That they push out of that and by the Day by the time they push you out of all These places and spaces you are just Existing in your home so they don't have To see you the right also now This whole idea about the grooming part

Of it a lot of these bills are around Like originally it was the bathroom They're gonna try and get you in the Bathroom oh that didn't work okay were They trying to turn your kids into one Of them let me turn down the most the Most dangerous thing that could happen At a drag show is a conservative might Show up with a gun and kill someone it's Not the drag queens it's not the people Coming to see the drag queen the Dangerous most dangerous thing at a gay Bar is that a conservative might show up With a gun and kill you it's Needless to say this type of rhetoric From the politicians from from the right Wing Incites a degree of violence against This community like even just this year I think I got the stats right over 120 Protests and significant threats in 47 States so far this year just against Lgbtq and drag events this year what is The response to that from the drag Community is it just security like what Can you do to continue to Foster a safe Environment where people can be Themselves well I think that um you know When when things happen like what what Like what happened in this recent Shooting in this in the in the gay club Recently and in the Walmart Colorado Springs the Colorado Springs and then That Walmart they call them these shoes

They don't call them terrorists I don't Know why they never get they never get Labeled as terrorists it is Terror it's Domestic terror is an attempt to scare You out of out of leaving your home Again remember the whole goal is to get You to stay away so they never have to See you you can't even go hang out in Spots in places that are just for you Now they want you to just hang out just In your home go away never be seen out In public ever anywhere and the guy who Did the shooting Colorado Springs you Know his dad came forward and is saying Stuff like I'm just so glad they find That he's not gay when I heard he's in a Gay club I was just mad that he I Thought it was going to be gay he's like You're not worried that your son killed Five people allegedly you're mad that he Might have been gay in the process like Baby get your get your priorities Together and you know drag or artists Are not going anywhere So I hate to break the news to you Mary But drag has been around for a very long Time before anyone who's alive now has Been breathing drag's been around for a Very very very long time gender bidding Has been around for a very long time Trans people have been around for a very Very long time and and and and and we're Not going anywhere anytime soon you have Given us more than enough of your time

The show is we are here you can see that On HBO HBO Max Part the drag queen thank you for going Beyond the scenes with us my pleasure And um please check out uh Roy and his New drag queer and his new drag name Beyond the scenes after the break I'll Be joined by guest Channing Joseph and Frank decaro who will give us some Insight into the origins and history of Drag we'll be right back To be on the scenes now I just chatted With Bob the drag queen about his Personal journey and the importance of Representation on screen and all of the Attacks that conservatives have on drag And that entire culture but now Let's talk about the long history of Drag I'm joined Now by two guests are Going to help break this down for us First I'm joined by journalists and Professor of Journalism at Princeton University chatting Joseph Channing Welcome to the show great to be here Roy Thanks for having me might I add Channing your headphones are stunning Thank you I'm also joined by the author Of drag combing through the Big Wigs of Show Business Frank decaro Frank how you Doing thank you for joining us as well Thank you for having me it's such a Pleasure to be here now this question is For both of you but Frank I'll throw it To you first give us an overview of the

Origins of drag and just where the term Drag comes from let's just start with The basics well a lot of times they say That the word drag comes from a woman's Clothes dragging on the ground I don't Know if I believe that and hopefully Channing has a better perspective on That but I will say that as long as a Guy has been on the stage and as as long As being on a stage or being in public Has been popular entertainment and drawn A crowd somebody has been cross-dressing To use the oldest possible term you can Think of for that Shakespearean uh Tradition has Men playing female roles Kabuki tradition has that the English uh Pantomimes which still exists today Every holiday season has the pantomime Dame in it there's always was someone Dressing either a man dressing as a Woman or a woman dressing as a man when We were thinking in the most binary of Terms but that's always been a part of Entertainment and the drag queen let's Say that the sort of multimedia drag Queen Has existed At least since the the early 20th Century and perhaps even before there's Evidence now that the first drag queen May have been a a freed enslaved person So and that's a whole other thing that We're all looking at now and wondering More about but there was a guy in the

Early in the teens the 19 uh about 1912 Who got his own Broadway Theater named After him and he was one of the highest Paid entertainers in Show Business named Julian L tinge and everyone kind of Looks at Jillian Elton just sort of the Grandmother of them all because she was Kind of the rude Paul of 1912. she had a Magazine to give women tips on how to Look beautiful she was in movies playing You know a spy who goes Behind Enemy Lines dressed as a woman she was on Broadway doing the singing her own songs In Drag and uh and was was hugely Popular and uh so the anyone that says Drag is sort of a new phenomenon is is Really Speaking it on truth there's a popular Meme going around now that says if you Know that that you've always been Entertained by drag and then they show Of course Tootsie and Bosom Buddies and Some Like It Hot and every movie that That we've ever seen in the 20th century With with drag in it and so like you Can't say oh my God these drag queens Are so dangerous when you've uh been Laughing at them for a hundred years Plus chatting feeling some of the gaps There like in that old school sense Because you know I know there was also a Time where women weren't allowed to Perform could you believe that women Wasn't allowed at a time to do a thing

And men had to take on the roles of Women in theater because we just we Don't know where to find any women Actors I guess I'll put on some lipstick Absolutely so one of the things that Most people don't realize is that Um the way we use the term drag today is Very loose we're thinking as Frank Pointed out in binary terms of man Dressing as a woman woman dressing as a Man and uh it's sort of Applied Indiscriminately whether we're talking About as Frank pointed out uh Shakespearean theater or Kabuki Um we're talking we're calling it drag When those are actually separate Traditions and it's important I think to Specify the the specific uh differences Between those cultural cultural Traditions there's actually an American Tradition of of drag which does go back To the culture of of African Americans Formerly enslaved African Americans in Washington DC Um in the 1880s and from that point to Today we can we can trace the the origin Of uh the ballroom culture and voguing Um and all the way to RuPaul's Drag Race It's sort of has maintained the same Basic format in terms of uh basically a Competition where uh queer queer black People meet and celebrate celebrate each Other and and compete for the prize but Um back then uh the first drag queen was

Named William Dorsey Swann and in the Culture of DC after the Civil War there Was this so there was this tradition of Celebrating freedom of course you're now Free you're no longer enslaved it Celebrates your life burn up yeah yeah And how they turned off Absolutely and um in that in that period Of time one of the big ways it Celebrated was to Um Was to have a parade called emancipation Day an emancipation day in DC there were These beautiful women who would who Would essentially wear these uh usually Flower covered dresses or Um or crowns and they'd be part of the Parade they'd represent the embodiment The personification of Liberty for black People And they were called Queens the first Drag queen William Dorsey Swan actually Dubs himself the first drag queen Because The balls were already being called drag Drag balls or drag parties or drag Dances that were or just drags but uh he Decided to say I am the queen of this Ball so actually adopting the term Queen Is a way of of connecting Um the sort of celebration of queerness With emancipation from enslavement it's Actually there's always been this Connection between the United States

Context between African-American Emancipation and drag which is not Something that people talk about Um so that's something that that I like To point out Um because as we know to this day There's all there's there's lots of Discussion about drag queens Misappropriating or or Um uh arrogating to themselves you know Various uh aspects of Black Culture or Black women's expression and actually That's that's been that's been dating Back over 100 years you've cracked a can On something that I wanna that I want to Go back to for a second because I want To talk about some of the common Misconceptions and stereotypes about Drag that you wish Layman like myself Were a little more informed on and Frank I want to get your answer on this as Well but first let's go back to the Distinction between cross-dressing and Drag I'm from Alabama and I worked on a Side of town that was the more free Willing side of Birmingham called Five Points South and that was my first Introduction as a teenager and to every Other culture from skate culture to Gay Culture to tattoos and nose so everybody Was just called a cross-dresser this is Birmingham in the 80s that was not the Level of specificity and understanding That we have now so let's just start

With cross-dressing and drag and what The differences are there and then what Are some of the other misconceptions you Think people get wrong about their Culture I think cross-dressing It has been a pejorative term Um but it is a descriptive term and it Describes the sort of conception of of a Man picking on a woman's a woman's Appearance um and it actually applies to Different kinds of processing it applies To African traditions and uh Kabuki and Shakespearean theater all those really Could be described as cross-dressing Whereas um drag is more um at least now It's more of a celebration of Um gender expression and I think Breaking out of gender roles right I Think if you look at for example Shakespearean theater for whatever Reason they didn't have Roman for throws It wasn't about it wasn't a decision Based on uh self-expression or desire to Explore explore your gender or explore Uh ways that how you want to see Yourself right or how you see yourself Um it was it was more sort of there were Other reasons why why men were dressing As in wearing dresses and so on yeah Whereas dragon is more of a celebration Okay like Martin Lawrence dressing up as Shanaynay was not marked identified with His own gender and expression it was Just now I'm gonna put on a wig and some

Lipstick and crack some jokes at least Not not as far as We Know [Laughter] What there you know Before that for that someone like Flip Wilson and while it was done you know in Prime time he flipped Wilson for people Who don't know he was the the first African-American comedian performer to Have his own variety show that was a hit I mean there were others who had who had Done specials and who had done short Things but flip was on for like four Years and yeah of that era yeah yeah he Was friendly and a Storyteller but he Was he would do uh this character named Geraldine Jones who had a boyfriend Named Killer but that never stopped her From flirting with every man from and I'm not kidding Bill Cosby to O.J Simpson to Bing Crosby okay he was Hugely popular but what he did that was So different From Shanaynay was He played a character who believed she Was beautiful And kind of was sexy and was sort of a Feminist character and people flipped Out over that because in terms of they Liked it but also because it really was Different she wore poochie print dresses She had great Gams she she was kind of The person who influenced RuPaul in many Ways and Rue admits that was my age and

So you know I mean it was Um You know she was watching the same TV I Was watching and Flip kind of it was the introduction to Drag for a lot of people what's Different and what's important about him And it goes to the misconceptions about Drag is he was not making fun of women At all and I think that some people want To say that oh drag is misogynist and Some of it when it's played like look How ugly I am and every comedian is Guilty of of doing that at some point But he a lot of drag comes out of An appreciation for female tropes and For female characteristics but then it Exaggerates them To to Jessica Rabbit proportions you Know I mean it's it's nobody really no Woman really looks like Bianca Del Rio Unless she's in drag too you know I mean It's like and now uh Channing as you Know you can be a cisgender woman you Can be a cisgender you can be any you Can come out of the womb whatever but if You've got too much fabulous you could Be a drag queen now and and it doesn't Matter what your plumbing looks like and Thank heaven for as long as when that Light goes on you're funny and glamorous It doesn't matter what your jump looks Like and that's kind of an exciting Thing I think

I I think that's fabulous and I I um I Agree with with Frank um that uh you Know performance performers like like uh Flip Wilson were really important and I Think you know looking at looking at That aspect of of drag like the Performative aspect it hasn't always Been performance for like a public Audience that's one point which I'll get To but the the uh the important point I Think is performers performance is like Geraldine Jones they were important Because Um I think they were part of you know at Least for a couple of Decades of uh Beginning of the 20th century when drag Balls Um Sort of became more open to the public They wore a way of showing I think Straight cisgender people How fabulous you could be uh you know How fabulous a man could be wearing Heels and wearing a wig and so on Um that it it wasn't purely about comedy It was also about showing confidence and And Um showing sort of just bending a little Bit the the expectations of gender roles And now I think you know they're Completely bent which I think is a Positive thing Um but but but I think you know when When um if you look back like for

Example the 19th century balls the balls From the 1880s those were secret events Those were people getting together in Each other's houses putting on a show For for each other it was the community Thing it only really became uh sort of Uh a thing that the general public was Allowed into in the in the 20s or so and At that point Um People will really you know people were Interested to say that there were Thousands of people would gather to see Drag balls because they were such hunger For it and I guess you know it's still The same way people are hungry to see How gender can be reinterpreted and Expressed in different ways that that They have been taught were wrong or Um immoral and so on I certainly was Taught that I think that's what gets to Why people love drag is Through the artifice you get to this Tremendous truth about humanity and you All but it's also incredibly Entertaining it's not like a lesson in Gender studies it's it it sort of Already is but it's sort of it talk About the Spoonful of Sugar that makes The medicine go down it's really Entertaining and you're like oh wait a Minute We're not all uh you know there is it's Showing you the the spectrum of gender

In in a way and and you're you know but In a safe way and not only was where Drag balls a safe space but you had People like Milton Burrough who was the Father you know he's Mr television when They turned the TVs on he was the guy That got people to buy TV and he did Drag almost every week and he said oh Yeah he was a kid I'd sneak into the Drag balls and so you're sort of like Wait a minute so you're 12 or 15 and You're you know you're sneaking into Drag balls you know and typically it's You know stealing you know as as so much Entertainment is it's sort of like oh Good I'll get the gig because I'm the White guy but but I'll go learn Everything you know from from the black Performers as so many people do and did So when you talk about researching for Your book and Shannon you low-key being Very humble because I know a lot of that Swan research that we even know now in The Zeitgeist is because you went to Digging So both of you are very versed in the History of drag but in your research of The history of this culture how does the Black and lgbtq plus Community fit into That history I I know we talked a little Bit about DC but give me some other ways Where they fit into that culture and or If there's been Erasure well I think That one of the one important thing to

Point out is you know and just just the To piggyback from off of what Frank was Saying drag balls have been a safe place For lots of people to express themselves And and to be seen and to and to meet Each other and and to make connections And so on but they've also been really Dangerous for a lot of folks too Um you know Over and over again throughout history It particularly I mean certainly in the Early 20th century and and the 19th Century drag balls were constantly Um surveilled and raided by the police And people were born in jail oftentimes On really trumped up charges or or just No charges we just thought we just think You're a suspicious person we're going To throw you in jail because you're You're a man wearing a dress Um so it's the the the safety part is Also The other side of it is that it's been a Really dangerous thing people have People have felt a need to express Themselves in this particular way and Um the authorities have always looked at It as a sort of dangerous thing and and The in swans era one time he was Arrested and thrown in jail and Um The prosecutor you know sort of admitted In the prosecution documents of the Prosecutor admitted well

Typically we wouldn't we we wouldn't uh Send send Swan to you know prison for What we what we charged him with which Was keeping a disorderly house which is Something that usually something to do With prostitution yeah sex work but he Said We're trying to keep him off the streets Because of his quote evil example to the Community and Um and essentially says you know because Because he is involved with with uh sex With other men so the authorities looked At Swan's drag balls this is Swan the queen Of drag swans Dragon Balls as as as Something that people found so alluring That they'd want to copy because that's Why he was an evil an evil example to The community Um The community which you're gonna put the Community And and and that is exactly what we're Seeing today with with uh with many many Politicians and and other and other Other folks you know protesting drag Drag uh drag brunches and drag Story Time and Um protesting Um You know discussions of of being Trans In schools Um and it's it's a similar kind of it's

It you know it's it's it is the same Kind of you know policing literally Policing Um and also culturally policing the the Ways that we express ourselves and and Who we are if you don't fit into those Roles it's considered dangerous and and We're and the straight CIS people are Still really scared that that their kids Are going to be queer like us foreign Culture within this community Frank Let's go back 50 years ago to Stonewall In New York City and talk a little bit About that as being a bit of a pivot Point in terms of drag becoming a little More mainstream or a little more in the Face of people because it merged Perfectly with the emergence of disco Music as well So yeah exactly well it's interesting to Me because I said I'm glad about disco Gay I'm just saying that you can dance That no matter what your Orientation is some good ass music keep Going Frank no I was you can say my next Book is about the history of It'll be my take on it you know and then And then Channing you do the actual Study of this stuff I'll do the here's The buffet of the glitter and then you Serve the entree of the meat potatoes And show them what they know oh no I Just make the dessert At least yes you can do anything you

Want Um I was gonna say that the Stonewall for People who don't I mean more people know Now than used to but there are a lot of People who still go what is that Stonewall was the turning point where in The beginning of the gay rights movement In America uh and there were things Before that the Black Cat and and Compton's uh cafeteria out in California But Stonewall is the moment in 1969 Where gays fought back and despite what Some mainstream movies will tell you it Was not the cute little white kid from The Midwest who was throwing bricks it Was trans people who didn't even call Themselves that they call themselves Transvestites and activists not even Trans people really but it was people Like Marsha P Johnson Sylvia Rivera and Uh um That storm at gallery that was the I was Like Channing help me at least the drag King who was of all Um stormy delabra they were the ones who Were doing it and honestly with any Movement The people who have The least and the most to lose at the Same time are the ones who are the Bravest The ones who don't fit in the closet And also are like I'm not going in there

I've seen with how dark it is in the Closet it stinks I'm not going to be in There Um but the ones who really uh You know who who Can't hide Often tend to be the people who wouldn't Hide even if they could they tend to That personality type of oh no I'm not Taking I'm not a second class look at me I'm fabulous you know and they're They're wearing their their look on the Street those are the ones who often are The bravest and the toughest and that's Why when some of you know with what's Going on now you're sort of like I won't Pick on the drag queen if I were you you Know that's what that's like you know It's like if you're gonna go you know I Wouldn't Heckle the insult comic you Know it's a it's sort of they'll they'll Shish kebab you you know it's sort of It's like you think you're picking on The weak one but it's like they could Outrun you they could outrun you in Platform meals you know and and then Take one off and beat the crap out of You with it you know they these are Tough people and yet they look so Glamorous and so beautiful while they're Doing it but um I think that that was What happened at Stonewall was the ones Throwing the bricks at first were and And then forming a kick line is that and

I'm going to use the word gay the way I Like to use it as if it's a great thing The Great greatest thing you could say What's the gays they formed a kick line In the street so they're doing a rocket Number against the police that is the Gayest thing you can possibly do and yet It's sort of like the number it's not Only gorgeous legs that's like 20 middle Fingers you know I mean it's just it is The ultimate it's like oh you want us to Be gay rather than throwing a brick the Police would have rather the brick be Thrown at me yeah because how do you React to that if you're sort of like oh Yeah you're gonna we're gonna get Arrested but well if I go I'm gonna at Least look good doing it and then you Start a kick wide that that to me is the Gayest most powerful thing it's sort of Like oh I'll show you and that's why I Mean drag today is leading the the Cultural conversation But I honestly the Republicans want to Shut it down and the proud boys are like You know who you're taking on it's like These these people do these are not Mincing F words you know I mean hey you Know they're they're uh these Queens Will kick your ass they'll clean your Clock you know I mean they know how to Do it because they've been threatened From the moment they they came out of The closet or or emerged from the womb

Perhaps so when we talk about the middle Fingers to the authorities then versus The middle fingers to politicians now And a lot of the policies that have Started to be passed to to suppress this This type of culture I don't think you're going to be able to Legislate out anything that has real Influence on society talk to me a little Bit and Shannon I'll start with you talk To me a little bit about the influence That drag has had on Beauty and Fashion I already talked to Bob about television But let's talk about pop culture and Just general beauty and fashion and the Way drag has influenced that even music Hill you know the first thought that I Had when you asked the question is uh Beyonce of course Um you know and her latest album Renaissance there are many references to Balls and to you know the category is And tens across the board and if you're Listening to the lyrics of the songs uh Like like alien Superstar and like Heated Um and So it sort of shows that like an artist At that at that level is is engaging With with drag uh we've got culture and History of dry culture and as well as Um I think I think drag as a influence On Beauty has just made it more okay to Experiment with you know makeup with

With different forms of attire Um for all people right it's made it Okay for men to be a little more fem and And more fabulous and it's made it okay For women to be much more fabulous if They want Um is drag the reason why I have like be Wearing avocado mask at night some Nights when like is that the reason I Know the word exfoliate You could probably you could probably do A thesis drawing the line between those [Laughter] When RuPaul the MAC cosmetics Uh Gig in the in the early 90s that was Shocking to a lot of people a lot of This stuff was shocking back and now he Takes a lot to shock anybody but back in The day when RuPaul's suddenly like oh Wait look you know what I'm going to be The the spokes model for uh Viva Glam And she looked gorgeous you know the Drag boss has left you just gotta get on It to stand in the way or try to fight It will ultimately be unsuccessful And it's also short-sighted because it's Sort of do you you really the the Upsetting thing to me when people Protest drag queen Story Hour it's like So that that those little kids that feel Different for whatever reason And like sparkle whether whatever their Gender

They don't get the same treat they don't Get to be happy they don't get to see Someone in a book they don't you know It's very upsetting to me that to see Lives being threatened drag lives and Gay lives queer lives uh being Threatened When it's preposter you know if drag Queens are groomers it's like well They're not groomers they're hair Stylists they're makeup artists they're Not they're not groomers in the in the Pedophiles sense they're groomers and That your nails look fabulous by the end Of it you know I mean yeah It's just a dumb argument to say they're Groomers it's like yeah that's that's Why people do drag it's like no that's Why clowns become clowns Or eat you or whatever clowns do you Know Those are two different people two Different people I think queer folks are still a minority But we're just a powerful influential Minority because of because of how Badass we are Um you know uh I always I always say in 1969 when someone happened it was sort Of a surprise to people that suddenly That queer folks could fight back and The reality is There there was all kinds of unseen Invisible work that had to get done to

Build a community that felt confident Enough to fight back The so there were Decades of work behind Behind that decision to fight back on That day and now we've had another 50 Years of organizing just where we're Like there's no way we're not we're not Going back in the closet we're not going To go back backwards so yes they're Protesting but we're we're not only a Cultural Force we're just two I think Too powerful too organized uh a Community now uh it doesn't make sense It's it's irrational to to uh go against Us What do you all think the future of drag Looks like where does this go because if This small ball this Pebble was rolling Down the hill and now it's a big boulder Where does this go next how soon to the Drag president is what I'm asking Oh that's a great one Um Do we have to give her the Giuliani Credit for dressing in drag as yeah I Hope not I don't know because he was an Ugly drag queen that was a ugly drag Queen be running that boy from Everywhere yeah it's hard to get mascara Out of here but he managed to uh just do It I think it's gonna look Like uh Just just this amazing Buffet of talent I think that it's going to come down to

How good are you at it not uh what you Know whether you're dressed as a man or A woman or a horror icon where you're Covered in blood or you're covered in Sequence I think it can be anything I Think uh it's drag kids who who are so Cool with themselves at eight or ten That they're they're dressing in drag as And Performing not just oh Mommy I feel Different but they're really like oh I'm Gonna be fierce and go do this and you Know the the thing that the moment in my Life when I realized stuff was changing Was when I was speaking to a group of Young people and I said well I came out When I was 16 in 1978 and the kid said Why did you wait so long and I and I was Like oh my God things have really Changed 16 I was like in the advanced Placement Program In those late 70s it was like you know You know what you you're gay or I've Known forever of course I'm a gay you Know and um I think the future of drag Is is going to be gorgeous and fabulous And diverse that's one of the best Things about drag two I I didn't say This before You know people are always saying we Have to in entertainment we have to Strive for diversity with drag all you Have to do is tell the truth if you you Know and maybe it's that way with Everything but if you just show who was

Doing cool stuff You don't have to go looking for Diversity because it's all there in your Face it scored it's gorgeous it's like Something everybody was participating in In their own wonderful way So it's not forced in any way just get Out there and tell the truth and you'll Have people of every background and Color and Creed and and Sequin type you know Jenny what's it look like to you I think Um drag is a huge factor in Um What will become a complete Transformation of how we think about sex And gender in the future but how we talk About sex and gender how we think about It has already completely changed right But in the future it will be so core to Who we are to talk about Um diversity of being non-binary or Trans uh or the diversity of gender Expression all those you know we'll have New words for it because the words Always change right I think uh but but It will be completely transformed one of The things I think that most people sort Of don't think about or realize is like It's not just that they used to be old Words and now we have cool words Um like In Swan's time it was you know you were

A queen or you weren't it was about what You were actually it was about whether You were participating in balls or not And whether you're winning the balls Whether you were a queen and then later You were Um you know uh other Scholars talk about Like what uh whether you were a fairy or Or pansy and then sort of after World War II it became this homosexual Heterosexual slicing and now we're you Know now we're much more diverse in Terms of being pan or fluid and Everybody is becoming more exactly you Know binary transgender queer gender Fluid we have so many more options and I Think in the future We will either have many more options Than that or it will just be so part of Who we are that it becomes Irrelevant in This sort of way and it's it's important I think Um Just to Realize that we're we're strong enough To get through this and we will and and Um no matter what they do all of the way We think about about our our gender and Our and our sexuality will will Completely transform well I hope that The future drag does not include more The ignorance and laws and hatred that Your community has been dealing with the Two of you are on the spearhead of

Educating dumb on what the Right things are and how to be more Knowledgeable citizens I thank you Shannon I thank you Frank And also shout out to Bob for coming on Earlier that's all the time we have for Today play my theme music [Music]