Tracker Pixel for Entry

The difference between drag and transgender

by Faye Seidler | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Culture | February 8th, 2017

During the early days of my transition, I came out to a friend of mine as transgender. His reaction to that was asking “Do you mean like RuPaul?” I didn’t know how to answer that question because, at the time, I had no idea who RuPaul was.

So, later that night, I did some research on RuPaul and started to get really offended because I realized my friend was comparing my transition to the life of a drag queen.

I was offended because that comparison amounted to calling my identity a performance. It said that I wasn’t actually a woman, but rather I just put on clothes and pretended. Needless to say, the implications hurt, but the thing was, my friend wasn’t trying to hurt me. He just didn’t understand the difference or what those labels implied and at the time, neither did I.

The easy answer to the difference is that drag is a performance and trans is an identity. In drag, someone puts on an avatar of hyperbolized femininity or masculinity. In a trans person’s life, they are always how they identify: male, female, or non-binary in some way. Drag is a choice, whereas being trans is something we’re born into.

Now, drag focuses primarily on our cultural understanding of gender norms and turns the knob to eleven. In the case of drag queens, that could mean insane hair, flamboyant makeup, and gaudy dresses that scream glamour.

But drag is an art, and as an art it can mean different things to different people. It can be a form of empowerment, a means of self expression, or just a way to entertain others. But no matter why someone chooses to perform drag, at some point their costumes come off, and they go back to being whoever they are.

A trans person doesn’t put on an identity. A trans woman is always a woman, regardless of how she dresses, presents, or performs. In many ways, drag doesn’t really have anything to do with being a man or a woman, but rather the performances we demand of those genders. That’s why both men and women can perform as drag queens. That’s why you do see contestants from RuPauls’ Drag Show come out as being trans and actually transition.

The great thing about drag is that it allows people to explore their gender through performance in a safe way. The process of coming out as trans, going through a transition, and presenting oneself as a preferred gender takes a long time, is often hard, and can really hurt. There is no telling how a person will feel going through that process and many individuals are afraid they’re making the wrong choice.

So, with drag, a trans person gets an opportunity to stand in front of a crowd presenting as their preferred gender. They get to see how that feels for them and if it’s something they still want when the performance ends.

Another way to think of it is to compare it to conventional theater. Nobody would call a woman playing a male part in a play a trans man. It is understood that the person is playing a part, she’s following a script, and when the play ends she’ll go back to being herself.

Where do crossdressers fit in all of this? The major difference is that a person performs drag to entertain, while a crossdresser puts on the clothes associated with their opposite sex for their own enjoyment, often only in their own home. A crossdresser typically gets some emotional benefit from engaging in crossdressing, such as stress relief.

While there are many misconceptions about crossdressing, the majority of crossdressers tend to be straight and cisgender. A crossdresser isn’t trans, because they go back to being whoever they are when the clothes come off.

There is a saying that sexuality is who we go to bed with and gender is who we are in bed. Taking that further, our gender is who we are when everything else is gone. It isn’t defined by how we act, what clothes we put on, or what our genitals happen to be. It is defined by our neural anatomy and experienced through our body and interpreted through our culture on a deeply profound and personal level.

At the end of the day, trans is mostly just a modifier to indicate that a person has had a slightly different journey or body than standard. Drag is a form of art that plays with our notions of gender, often by turning them up to the max, while crossdressing is a means to play with gender in a emotionally soothing or expressive way.

[Faye Seidler is the North Dakota Safe Zone Project Spokeswoman]

Recently in:

BISMARCK – The Dakota Access Pipeline developer agreed to plant trees to reach a settlement over two misconduct allegations while constructing the pipeline on Wednesday. A total of 20,000 trees are to be planted by December 31,…

photo by Meg Luther Lindholm.Ibtissem (pronounced Ib-tiss-em) Belmihoub is both enjoying her time in Fargo as a doctoral student in Rhetoric, Writing and Culture at NDSU and a community volunteer. She is currently the Project…

Wed-Fri, September 27-29, 8pm; Sat-Sun, 2pmComstock Theatre, Concordia College, 901 8th St S, MoorheadIt is October, 1517, at Wittenberg University in northern Germany, where students and faculty begin another academic year. A…

Our opinion: We’re more than the sum of our partsOver the weekend I was telling a friend of mine that one of the most valuable things a person can gain in life is perspective. My time at the High Plains Reader has gifted me just…

What kind of characters would charge $99 for a case of water?In the days before the solar eclipse safety glasses sold for $8.95 for a five-pack of certified glasses. The day before the eclipse the price was raised to $59. During…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

Brand new and satisfying in so many waysI ventured into Tru Blu on Sunday at noon. As soon as I entered I was immediately astonished by the interior. It’s gorgeous! The brown tufted booths and dark wood give the impression that…

Fall is arriving, and that of course means that the new season of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra’s “Masterworks” series sponsored by Sanford Health is right around the corner.In the last couple concert seasons they…

Rom-coms are a staple of modern movies and have been for well over a century. This summer two very different variations on the genre spotlighting iconic 20th-century superstars made their Blu-ray debuts from Kino-Lorber. One is a…

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. This nonprofit organization described their mission as “To identify students with their exceptional artistic and literary talent and…

‘Heathers’ hits the Empire stage in Grand ForksBefore the pink-clad Plastics or Cher’s group of popular beauties in “Clueless,” the shoulder pad-wearing, croquet mallet-wielding Heathers ruled the halls of Westerberg High…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

Up here where it’s north of normal, we can pretty much count on our first cold snap to hit right about now, and the 90 degree day we JUST HAD seems like a distant memory. Goodbye pool parties, BBQs and the patio hang sesh. Hello…

Essential oils. They are all the buzz lately. It seems everyone has heard of them or is purchasing them. Some people know how to use them; others are just interested in the wonder of their complex scents.Essential oils are as…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

By Robert Franklin, Esq.parents@nationalparentsorganization.orgIn North Dakota, a child’s chances of spending meaningful time with each parent following divorce have less to do with his parents than what county they divorce…