The murmur spread through the crowd at the Lincoln Theatre, but not because the headliner, Sasha Velour — the Season 9 winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” — was about to take the stage. Everyone was looking at the balcony seats on the right, where a ponytailed woman in a navy pantsuit was taking her seat.
“AOC!” someone yelled from below. The audience rose to give Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — who has been outspoken about her appreciation for drag on Twitter — a standing ovation.
Two days later, in another Washington mash-up of work and werk, drag queen Pissi Myles clacked down the halls of the Longworth Building in shiny red pumps. Myles was there as a journalist and commentator, covering the impeachment for live-streaming, crowdsourced news company Happs, though she quickly became a story herself: It’s not often that a drag queen sashays her way through Official Washington, at 6 feet 8 inches in heels and a wig, serving looks and political analysis in equal measure. The following week, she was reporting again, this time from the spin room at the Democratic debate in Atlanta.
Drag and politics have always been intertwined, ever since the 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York, where drag queens and transgender women, notably the performer Marsha P. Johnson, were among the foremothers of the gay rights movement. And in the lead-up to 2020, with drag enjoying more mainstream popularity than ever before, drag queens are becoming a perfect foil to President Trump.
“In the queer community — and this is something that a more broad audience might not know — drag queens are kind of looked at as community leaders and mouthpieces,” said Myles. They “ride out first with their sword in the air.”
The act of dressing in drag has long been a political statement — it’s an act of rebellion against societal norms, and an art form that elevates the voices of disenfranchised communities. And as drag has attracted a new, mainstream audience — one that might see it purely as entertainment — there have been efforts to make the connection more overt…
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