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Illusions of queer intersections: a Performative Read of asian queerness in RuPaul's drag Race:season 3

Abstract : This research essay is a critical analysis of two drag queen performers on the U.S. televised show RuPaul's Drag Race: Season 3 (RPDR). Focusing on two queer Asian identified queens, this essay understands the drag performances as multifaceted performances of identity that work to disidentify with hegemonic and heterosexist norms. Situated within a U.S. media context, these performances conflict with stereotypical portrayals of gay and lesbian life in U.S. media (Fejes & Petrich, 1993). Disidentifying performances by these two queers of color are important because they offer a worldview outside the stereotypical, gay, middle-class white male depiction of queer realities in T.V. drag performances by queers of color call into question the performative components of identity and identity construction. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and social class are reinterpreted and transformed through these performances. The performances of these two queens are important because they claim queer space through their incessant intersectionality. Focusing on Axis 4, "Communication Between Cultures: Another Globalization?" this essay addresses the power of queer media spaces and queer representations. The paths for intercultural communication through media are not as clear-cut as standardization (essentialism) or diversity (quotas), but rather should be a path of intersections that allow for transformation and new significations and representations in media. Using disidentification (Muñoz, 1999), queer theory, critical race theory, and thick intersectionality (Yep, 2010), this research essay offers an analysis of RPDR portrayal of two Asian identified queens: Raja and Manila Luzon. The focus is upon these two queens because each disidentify with components of their identity differently, and because both were in the finale to win the title of "America's Next Drag Superstar." Both queens identify as gay, male, and Asian. However, each enacts these complex intersections of identity in strategic ways. Therefore, this essay engages the identities of the two queens as portrayed in RPDR to understand the fluidity and performative nature of identity within a queer counterpublic. The queer identity is usually found at the periphery of the norm in resistance to societal norms. Yep (2010) writes, "in a broader sense 'queer' signifies nonnormativity" (p. 36). The drag performances of the two queens are specific embodiments of this resistance as they personify queer resistance to heterosexist and gender norms. As a mode of disrupting hegemonic understandings of identity, Muñoz (1999) writes, "Disidentification is the third mode of dealing with dominant ideology, one that neither opts to assimilate within such a structure nor strictly opposes it... a strategy that works on and against dominant ideology" (11). Thus, a disidentifying identity attempts to inhabit standardized identity performances to transform the structure from within. Drag queens of color employ a disidentificatory tactics to recreate identity and expose the slippage of monolithic identities. The disidentifying queer, in order to create disidentification, uses strategic discourse to change the ideological rigidity of norms and monoliths. RPDR is corporately sponsored, but still chips away at norms that inform dominant understandings and portrayals of queer reality. Muñoz (1999) confirms that sanitized drag can be seen in mainstream media, but, "there is also a queerer modality of drag that is performed by queer-identified drag artists in spaces of queer consumption" (p.99). Since RPDR is broadcast on a queer network, it does work to affirm a queer counterpublic, or group "that contest the hegemonic supremacy of the majoritarian public sphere" (Muñoz, 1999, p. 11). RPDR is a competition in which men dress and perform in drag to embody femininity to question the social constructs of gender. Through performance, drag displays a range of queer identities to the audience. Drag is complicated because bodies are always situated into discourse through competing and conflicting identities and histories. Therefore, these performances are made much more complex through thick intersectionality as, "the discourses of race, gender, and sexuality work not as separate entities but within and through each other" (Moreman & McIntosh, 2010, p.116). The way that identities are enacted, performed, and exposed during the drag performances of these queens provides a space for practioners of queer and critical race theory to understand these complex performances of identity. People of color must use survival strategies to cope with the hegemonic structure of a U.S. Western society and discourse that privileges the identity of the white, Judeo-Christian, heterosexual male. These survival techniques are multiplied and intensified when that person of color also identifies as queer. Queers of color find a special home in performing drag because drag allows queers of color to create schisms between the categories of identity through their intersectionality. Drag queens of color specifically employ disidentificatory tactics to recreate identity and expose the slippage in racial tropes. Moreman and McIntosh write, "...Race, like gender, is a fiction...[and] these racial repetitions offer possibilities for interruptions that might resist foreclosure. These interruptions... denormalize race and open up rescriptings for how race can be re-understood outside of, say, an American structure of racial feeling" (123). These identity markers, when understood outside the somatic, lend space for transformative and disidentificatory performances of self to resist the norm. Performances of disidentification situate themselves in counterpublics. Counterpublics are as diverse in their intersecting identities as the performances that create them. Queers of color perform a range of disidentifications that resonate in counterpublics and cannot be reduced to U.S. white/black binary discourse, as counterpublic creation is outside normative binaries. Moreman and McIntosh write, "[the] brown body performs between black and white, confounding dichotomies by identification with other 'others' such as the categorically difficult Latina/o, Filipina/o, Middle Eastern and South Asian" (123). In the separation of the binaries that describe race, the Asian queer body is a site of possibility. Although it may be defined by what it is not (white), the Asian body holds many possibilities to signify multiple intersecting identities and transforming the meanings and confines of identity. Using this foundation, this essay explores three main areas of these Asian drag performances: utilizing Blackness as a route to Whiteness, performance as disidentification of heterosexist desire norms, and employing stereotypes to critique the often invisible identity of Whiteness.
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Contributor : Compte Laboratoire Geriico <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 6:22:03 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, July 24, 2019 - 4:02:06 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-00840688, version 1



Jennifer Zenovich A.. Illusions of queer intersections: a Performative Read of asian queerness in RuPaul's drag Race:season 3. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation "., Mar 2012, France. ⟨hal-00840688⟩



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