Drag has entered what some are calling a "Renaissance." From the fashion world to television to theater to international travel, drag visibility is at its peak in pop culture. From its roots in communities of trans women of color, drag now sees much more cisgender, white, and straight people both supporting and taking part. While this isn’t inherently negative, it seems antithetical to drag’s foundation that 2017 had the most recorded deaths of transgender people due to fatal violence, and 2018 had a nearly equal number.
In honor of drag’s history and in solidarity with the queer community’s most vulnerable members, Valentine Amari (Brown University, BA 2021) and I created Meet and Greet with Sunset Blush, an installation/performance piece at the RISD Museum that occured in conjunction with the opening of Bona Drag, “An Incomplete History of Drag and Cross-Gender Performance in Film and Video Art (Part 1)” (RISD Museum).
The piece references a typical “meet and greet” experience one could find in a nightclub when a drag queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race is performing. Visitors were encouraged to approach the photo backdrop, chat, and take a picture. Floating around us were 22 collages created by Valentine. Each features a portrait of one of the 22 transgender people who had been killed that year at the time of the piece’s installation on November 15, 2018.
Supporting drag, and queer art as a whole, is incredibly important. However, it’s more important to think critically about who within the community we’re supporting, and who we’re pushing further to the margins in the process.