Friday, August 20, 2021

Clowns in Gowns

Exhibit A

Exhibit A is a photo of a group of female impersonators (professional femulators), circa 1960. Discounting the glamorous evening gowns, these ladies resemble cisgender females you might see anywhere in the early ’60s.

Exhibit B

Exhibit B is a photo of what is considered 21st Century female impersonators (drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race). They more resemble the clowns in Exhibit C than they do cisgender females.

Exhibit C

Is it no wonder that I have no interest in modern drag queens? They are just clowns in gowns, in my opinion. 

I especially dislike it when they appear at Pride events and the ill-informed mass media and/or civilian population mistake them as representatives of the transgender community.

Not all drag queens are clowns in gowns. There are some who are professional femulators, but it seems that the clowns in gowns are getting all the attention today. Too bad.

Source: Joie
Wearing Joie

Bob Uecker and Rob Stone
Bob Uecker and Rob Stone femulating on television's Mr. Belvedere.


  1. Oh, so true. As a young adult I adored pictures of ladies like April Ashley and Coccinelle. They were women, who, in the street would not have appeared out of place. I remember a bar drag show in a South London pub and the two girls, even having done slightly lesbian influenced strip-tease as far as underwear could have been girls, ignoring the slightly too straight figures.

    That was what I wanted! I have the Rue Paul Drag race on Netflix and it is awful. As Stana says they are clowns. Bring back female impersonation if one wants but not clown drag.

    Lily, Brussels

  2. The old impersonators were portrait artists. Drag queens are often caricaturists. They overemphasize one point or another. They play things over the top for humor. That is NOT saying they are not artists in their own sense. They well can be. But.. it's a different form. And many people will prefer one or the other, drama or farce.

  3. I absolutely agree with you Stana, in fact I would go further to suggest that this exaggerated mockery of women could be considered as offensive as blackface.

  4. I agree on the Pride events. I feel the clown drag queens damage the whole community. That is why I do not participate in pride events. Our local newspaper, front page, every year, features the DQs - "Oh the circus is back" is what the community must think.

    Great post!

    1. Hate the "drag queen aesthetic. " I've honestly always tried to look as much like a normal girl who I'd actually have the chance of dating

  5. I agree with you opinion about today's drag queens.

    The female impersonators of yesterday were inspiring to me as a young femulator.

    One thought that I have is that perhaps years ago this was the outlet for transgender women, the FI clubs.

    Today transgender women have the option of transition.

    Drag has become show business.

  6. I agree Stana. I have always questioned many of the videos you find on You Tube that claim to be "Make Over Tutorials" but are geared toward Over The Top Drag Queen Looks. I enjoy dressing like and looking like a real woman, not being an exaggerated larger than life interpretation of a Female. (not that there's anything WRONG with that) (smile) But it DOES skew the general public's view of Trans Women in general and Crossdressers specifically.

  7. I have always been afraid of clowns....all that’s missing is the clown car

    1. Aaaaack! Now I have the picture of a dozen or so drag Queens clambering out of that clown car! It's booth scary and funny!

  8. I totally agree with you Stana. The popularity of RuPaul’s drag queens (even the BBC raves about it…) harms us because too many cannot understand that they are as far from us as night and day. While these queens with their bombastic and ridiculous presentation, attitude and bitchy behaviour make a mockery of women, most of us try hard to present ourselves as genetic women. And it is difficult to explain this to a civilian without outing yourself. Sunday Pride is huge here in Toronto, but in the last two or three years before covid the transgender community has had a separate, albeit smaller, parade on Friday

  9. Truth! Thanks for bringing it up.

  10. Thanks for posting this blog entry. To each their own of course, but I do feel that "Drag Queens" give the CD community a bad name. Just being so over the top and exaggerated. Most CDs really just want to dress like an every day (or glamorous) woman and just "fit in" so to speak.


  11. Hall-of-Fame announcer Bob Uecker never looked so good! Love the blue dress with the padded shoulders and the earrings and pearls! Nice big hair too, very 80's!More seriously I agree many drag artists today are going with over-the-top absurd characterizations of women rather than real attempts to look female.

  12. How courageous of you to say that, Stana. Yes I agree. Female impersonaters are artists.... not clowns. Very sad that Drag Queens are in that place.
    deborah s.

  13. Hmm... I wonder if those from the 60s would've joined in the in the more theatrical look if their situation was different? Plus, are all drag queens as fancy or is there a scale/nuance?

    I feel we shouldn't judge folk who perform drag as they can get similar levels of difficulty as we may do. Plus, some folk move between trans and drag as an identity.

  14. The drag queen caricature definitely seems to be in vogue, although at least in RPDR, maybe it is the competitive element and rooting for the people behind the masks that grabs the public imagination, rather than the exaggerated caricatures per se? I don't know: I don't relate to this myself, and fear as others do that drag queens are likely to be high among what many people believe is representative of the TG community. In earlier times, there seemed to be a real intrigue in the illusions created by impersonators.

  15. Indeed my dear Stana, I only saw one RuPaul’s program and I was not interested in seeing it again. I think what they do is ridicule women and us who really want to project a woman image.

  16. The "Cockettes" of late 1960's San Francisco were one of the first bombastic drag acts, so it has been around longer than RuPaul, yet just not as popular as PuPaul's show.

    Angel Amore

  17. i did happen to mention something along these lines as a response to another post a few days earlier. but as they say, great minds think alike!

    one thing that hasn't been mentioned is that not only do today's drag queens look like clowns, they act like them too. whenever i happen to go down the manchester gay village these days, there are always several of them hanging around outside the bars and clubs hustling to get punters inside. i have no idea if that is their sole remit for the evening, as their presence has the opposite effect on me. but even if they do actually do something else in a professional capacity later on, my suspicion is it is making coarse and catty comments over pounding contemporary dance music. that is as opposed to doing something that requires any actual talent i.e. sing and/or dance

    1. I wrote this post earlier in the week and when I saw your comment, I had the same thought... great minds... LOL


  18. I go back a long way. In "the olden days" the artists were called female impersonators. I didn't even hear the phrase "Drag Queen" until some time in the late 1960s. The difference back then was clear. Female Impersonators did just that -- impersonate females. That meant in presentation, appearance, demeanor, voice, and movement. Drag Queen seemed to be focused on performers who did lip-synch. 

    The ladies of The Gold Key Club close to me were female impersonators, as were the ladies of The Jewel Box Revue, The 82 Club, Finocchio's, The Queen Mary, The Baton Club, and Madame Arthurs, shown in the first photo above. The women who worked at Madame Arthur's take my breath away! The ones I saw were wonderful shows. Have I mentioned that I fell in love with LaVerne Cummings yet??

    But the girls who do drag shouldn't be denigrated for what they do. Those ladies work really hard to do good shows. They almost always sew their own costumes and style their own wigs. The good ones work hard to do a good lip-synch. Sure, Drag Queens look over the top. They're not trying to present themselves as comparable to cis women. They're men in dresses and their audience knows it. But they want to project some femininity and do honor to women as opposed to a nasty parody. Sure, some go over the line, but the feedback they get is few if any tips and they catch some real negative comments and attitude from their fellow performers for making them all look bad. They often get the boot from the show they're working.

    Now I don't much care for those incredibly overdone Queens on RuPaul either. It's a real display of what chemistry and technology have brought on and has been adapted to drag. "Out there" people like to push boundaries, thus the often outrageous appearance. I'm impressed with the technology, but not so much with the results. But lots of the ladies aren't all that much over the top in their presentation.

    I'm especially impressed with Jinkx Monsoon. She's big, with even bigger hair, but she doesn't clown up her face. And she's a wonderful singer and has actually performed women's roles on stage. Shangela, who was on the HBO program "We're Here" looks great. Is it clear she's doing drag? Sure, but she pulls it off very nicely. I think had she come around 50 or so years ago she would have been a dynamite female impersonator. She's close to that now.

    I still go to drag shows and will go to "Miss Gay America" pageants when they re-emerge. I like drag shows because the kids work hard and almost always do a good job of making us laugh. The pageants harken back to the days of female impersonation and the ladies do their best to emulate cis women. I also go to The Keystone Conference, where TG and CD ladies meet for several days and try to look as feminine as possible -- a very major stretch for me. But I get my long hair styled and have a makeup artist try to perform miracles on my face. It's the territory most of us try to live in. But, you know, I think there's room for drag, too.

    Do a lot of them -- especially the RuPaul crowd -- look like almost non-human pieces of femininity or, clowns maybe? Sure. But one of the bright sides I see is that they're bringing visibility to crossdressing. "Hey, this business of men in dresses isn't so bad, is it"? Now I don't pass worth a damn, but when Mikki goes out I hardly ever get any furrowed-brow looks, unlike "the olden days". Are there quizzical looks? Well, I still get them, but it doesn't really impact me. If they have a question they can ask me about whatever is on their mind. I can remember back when I felt like I could very well be in danger when I went out -- not so much now -- hardly at all, really. So I want to thank the RuPaul crowd, "clowns" or not, for making men in dresses more visible and more accepted. It's a big tent. There's room for us all in there. 

  19. R.E.S.P.E.C.T
    by Velma

    In many ways, the 'Drag Queen' community mimics and assumes the role of the 'Court Jester'.
    As Court jester, the clown, the buffoon-- was often the only person in the Kings Realm that could openly speak the 'truth to power' without fear of execution.

    Like 'em or loath 'em, or just 'fear them, (like COULROPHOBIA --fear of clowns)(no hate, please) Drag Queens are the unofficial court jester of the LGBTQIA movement.
    Drag Queens present little personal, or group social or sexual anxiety to the larger outside community.
    People usually have fears-- largely over things which they have unspoken anxieties such as gender identity, sex, race, class,disabilities, politics ect...
    Often any fear and anxiety is 'ginned-up' by outsiders with ulterior motives of religious/political power..
    Anxieties usually diminish and evaporate when the public is exposed to the same, disconcerting stimulus over time.

    The Drag Queen community is merely the 'avant garde' of this community.

    This 'avant garde' is the essence of 'Rupauls Drag Race'.
    A 'mutual friend of ours' eventually 'fessed up' to his long time 'not live-in' g'friend' that he deferred asking her to marry, because, well, you know... he had a secret....
    As both were avid viewers of RuPaul, however, he did indeed, 'fess up' one evening while both were watching...
    In the end, the story has a happy ending, and they lived happily ever after.

    In the world of comparative social norms, within social groups this same kind of 'thing' happens in almost any group.
    My wife is an amputee, and (you guessed it!) some of the disabled persons have become self appointed 'Karens' who deride THEIR OWN (!) at the national social/political meeting/party for not 'behaving' as WE so decide-- for NOT wearing cosmetic prosthesis, or- 'being dignified', or "sin of mortal sins", 'playing pirate' and not 'just for Halloween' as the younger 'cos-play' amps do...
    In fact this TROPE most certainly devolves to other groups regarding race, color/skin tone, creed, social status, various other disabilities ect...

    AND what to do when 'one of us' hates, loathes, fails, or decides to not recognize YOU/US?
    What, specifically about the TERFS? --Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists-
    Feminists, shunning those who aspire to be FEMININE!?
    TERFS aside,
    WHEN do we ALL decide to gather and 'have each others backs'?
    An injury to one, is an injury to all...
    We are a stronger community TOGETHER, than APART.


  20. *shrugs* I guess there's more than one way to express yourself.

  21. To each her own. live and let live.

    Still, I love the girls in EXhibit A. In particular, I love the girl sitting in front. She looks like Donna Reed. My fantasy is to be a Donna Reed 50's housewife.

  22. a decade ago a transexual with a beard won the eurovision song contest, which apparently gave the green light for british drag queens to do likewise. i have already stated their general appearance and demeanour rankles with me, but as one who tries to present as a reasonably realistic female i find that aspect particularly demeaning. however, i assume not even that will stop some in the trans comuunity who read this blog from holding the view that "birds of a feather, stick together"?

  23. I am pretty much in line with MIkkiB's comments above. I too remember when the prevailing term was Female Impersonator and some like Laverne Cummings actually sang like a woman very convincingly.

    Although we are not fond of the presentations on Rupaul's show it does get people thinking about men in dresses. With that seed planted its up to us to go out among the civilians and show them the difference. The impact of a well dressed, well behaved crossdresser can be very positive for the community. My adventures out and about crossdressed are exclusively to mainstream public places. I occasionally have to explain my preference for the term crossdresser over DRAG QUEEN. I simply explain that I am dressed as a woman because I enjoy it and crossdresser most accurately describes my behavior. DRAG QUEENS are performers and are over the top for entertainment purposes. They get it!

    Its rodeo season and rodeo clowns dressed outrageously like cowboys entertain the crowd with their antics. People get the difference between a rodeo clown and a cowboy riding a bull. If not I recommend they figure it out before going to Gilley's for a beer!

    We are ambassadors for our community every time we go out so dress your best.

    My 27 cents.

  24. Ouch! I find this posting to be unacceptably catty and, unfortunately, ignorant. The impersonators of yesteryear were there to raise the libido. Today’s drag queens are there to entertain and make people laugh. Now I have do not watch drag race but I have been to drag shows and wow those girls work hard. Just think what sort of image you want in the minds of the general public when we venture out among them. That show has put a relatable human face to the T spectrum, do you really want to continue to be viewed as weirdos in it for the sex? Old school impersonators never did much to increase awareness and tolerance. Anyone think it’s a coincidence that things started getting better as drag race became popular? The real clowns are the ignorant who, despite hating to be judged themselves, feel free to heap disdain on others.