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Title: Drag Dissent: An Examination of Drag as a Form of Protest Through History and Today
Authors: Ramirez, Raquel
Advisors: Dodd, Lynda
Department: Princeton School of Public and International Affairs
Certificate Program: Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies
Class Year: 2024
Abstract: In the 1960s and 70s, frequent police raids on queer hangout venues drove drag to become synonymous with activism as queens fought for their rights by both taking to the streets and the stage. During the AIDS epidemic, their protest became both more interlocked with community organizations and more performative, touching on issues of stigma, illness, and collective identity. During the fight for marriage equality, organizers disregarded drag artists and trans legal rights, opening the door for legislative backlash today. With the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the increase of support for the LGBTQ movement during the era of marriage equality, drag performers have access to platforms historically unheard of. On the other side, this visibility is a double-edged sword. The ACLU is currently tracking 484 anti-LGBTQ state bills, and two states have already passed bills restricting drag performance. With this newfound visibility, drag can become an even more effective tool for protest in its resistance. Through an analysis of Drag magazine in the 1970s, an exploration into The Armorettes, a troupe of drag performers during the AIDS epidemic, and commentary during the fight for marriage equality, I explore how the LGBTQ movement has used drag as a tactical repertoire under Rupp and Taylor’s framework in the past. I conducted in-depth interviews with six drag performers in the United States. I analyzed their stories within the context of Tilly’s method for protest analysis and Rupp and Taylor’s framework to show how, under legislative pressure, drag becomes an inherent form of resistance. The internal silencing of divergent forms of gender expression and the stigmatization of marginalized bodies remains constant through episodes of drag resistance, but increased visibility changes the current era. The interviews show how visibility promotes acceptance, education, and collective identity but can also advance further stigmatization, alienation within the LGBTQ community, and legislative backlash. I look closer at Drag Story Hours as a concrete example of this phenomenon.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2024

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