Drag Queen History

Scroll down for the drag queen history video.

Disguising gender is nothing new in our society, it has been used in many forms but one of its earliest is as a plot device in ancient Romanian and Chinese theatres. Women generally were not allowed to perform on stage. It wasn’t until 1660 the first professional actress took the stage in England.


Cross-dressing is a socially constructed phenomenon, as there is nothing in nature which would define one group in pants in another in skirts. Interestingly enough, a woman was gaoled in Puerto Rico in 1919 for the crime of wearing trousers in public. Since this time our social standards have changed, women wear trousers and it’s no longer considered cross-dressing, and men are now allowed to show their nipples at the beach.

“You can create who you are, gender-bending is just the start. You dress to impress to express who you are. You are a superstar.”

Image: Matthew’s Island of Misfit Toys

According to Merriam Webster, the term “drag” in the context of clothing is “typical of one sex worn by a person of the opposite sex”. Drag can be practiced by people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. And the term ‘queen’ in the context of gender-bending is known to have been around since the 18th century. Originally as a derogatory term to describe a gay man, it has since flipped to be reclaimed as a positive.


The term “drag queens” has been around since the 1930-40’s, and is now commonly associate with an exaggerated performance of a feminine character who has very glamourous costume, hair and make-up. It’s important not to confuse drag queen with transvestism, which is were a man predominantly cross dress’ to feel like, not look like, a woman.

Although drag queen as a term is as late as the 1930’s-40’s, early forms of traditional drag were appearing in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. In 1910 Julian Eltinge, a drag queen, had an American tour and produced a magazine. But as the video highlights this era was also a time when gender non conformist became circus performers in “freek shows” e.g. the bearded women.

Image: The Dumbells: WW1 Canadian entertainment troop c. 1917

Like so many minorities, history has not been kind. The 1950’s saw homosexuals as subversive and deemed a national risk. Another amazing insight into the intellect (or lack thereof) of our governments. Homosexuality was already illegal and men were jailed for cross-dressing. Many parts of the world banned cross-dressing, which saw private parties in individuals homes flourish and small pockets of activism grow.


The video looks at the 1969 Stonewall riots as a pivotal period in drag queen history. This riot highlights the drag queen influence in the gay rights movement, which is often referred to as beginning in 1969 at New York’s only gay bar of the time, Stonewall Bar. On the 28th of June 1969 the police conducted a raid, which went a little pear shaped as the community (gay and drag) fought back. The riots lasted for three days and it’s said it ignited worldwide LGBTI activism.

As a culture we have come a long way with our beliefs around cross-dressing, but we still have so far to go. A simple example is a woman jumping into a man’s shirt for bed is considered acceptable even attractive, while a man wearing a woman’s nightie to bed would not be deemed in the same way by most people.

But enough from me, the best history lesson here is a mix of a ludicrously catchy song, politics, and gorgeous fashion.

Take it away queens!

Imp Queen, The Vixen, Lucy Stoole, London Jade, Eva Young and Dorian Electra.

2000 Years of Drag: A Musical Odyssey | Refinery29

Thanks for reading.

Cheers Jak

Vavven™ is a social enterprise selling sex toys and raising funds for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. Change a world with your purchase.

Learn More
Shop Here
Website Terms of Use 13. Medical Disclaimer: You agree that any information contained in our Site or Materials or provided with our products is provided to you as a guide only and is not an attempt to practice medicine or provide medical advice. Such Materials and our product(s) are not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. We are not responsible for any health problems that may result for your use of our product(s) and Materials. Use of our Site and Materials does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. The Materials, our Site and our product(s) should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and/or treatment. Any health information in our Site or Materials is provided for your convenience only. The Site and Materials are intended for general information purposes only and do not take into account your own personal circumstances. They are not intended to be advice, they are not intended to be relied upon and they are not a substitute for professional medical advice based on your personal circumstances. You are solely responsible for determining the suitability of our product(s). Your reliance on any Materials or other information that is provided to you through our Site or with our product(s) is at your own risk. We accept no liability for any result, direct or indirect, of you using the product. If any symptoms or side effects occur you should stop using the product immediately and consult your doctor or medical professional. Link to Website Terms of Use.

About Jacqueline Haines

Social entrepreneur who champions sexual and reproductive health and rights. Founder of Vävven.
2017-04-17T12:28:49+10:00 By |Body, Mind|

Leave A Comment