chapter  7
The Impact of Race on Gender Transformation in a Drag Troupe
ByEVE SHAPIRO
Pages 16

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Imagine a drag show. A huge drag show. It’s the Saturday night show at the fi fth annual International Drag King Conference, and there are more than 1,000 people in the audience. The lights are down; the crowd quiets after cheering loudly for the previous number and a drag king in an Afro, ‘pimp’ duds, and big gold jewellery steps on stage. The crowd cheers and then, as fl ickers of recognition cross the faces of audience members, some of the cheers stop, abruptly. There is a ripple of whispers moving through the crowd. ‘He’s in blackface!,’ ‘It’s true, he’s White!’ ‘His name is Stephon.’ I approached him earlier today and he told me that he “identifi ed” with African Americans even though he was White,’ ‘No Way!’ Your neighbour turns and says, ‘Hey, I think people should get to perform whatever they want.’ As the music comes up, many audience members cheer and begin dancing along to the rap song Stephon lip-syncs. Others turn their back on the stage, hoping to register their dissent visibly. The song ends, some people cheer, others stay facing the back of the room. The next act comes on, and the show continues. Time passes, and later in the show a large drag troupe takes the stage. The Disposable Boy Toys (DBT) are introduced, and they fi le on stage, dressed in circus costumes with glitter mustaches and sequined dresses.