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In Cleveland, our LGBTQA+ community is out and proud — and putting on some pretty incredible shows, too. Thanks to television shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” drag culture has become more mainstream, and shows are attended by people of all sexualities and genders. Drag has been a part of Cleveland for a long time — much longer than you would expect — and there is so more to it than just men performing as women.
Typically, Drag Queens are men who dress as women and perform in shows or pageants. While Drag Queens have been in the mainstream lexicon for since the 90s, drag itself dates back to the Greeks who performed on stage as both sexes. Drag remained hidden in Cleveland until recently, staying relatively underground even in the 70s and 80s.
Drag Queens’ history may best be explained by Cleveland’s own Queen Dr. Lady J, AKA Jeremiah Davenport. She wrote her doctoral thesis on the development of drag, called "From the Love Ball to RuPaul: The Mainstreaming of Drag in the 1990s.'' Lady J also teaches classes on drag and has started a podcast on the history of drag called “Untucking the Past.” The thesis and podcast can be downloaded on her website.
Cleveland Kings Action Pack (CKAP) are Drag Kings who perform 5-6 times a year for charities. Drag Kings are typically women who dress as men, but CKAP’s main work is to promote and develop safe spaces for new kings and kings of all identities. Since their formation, they have performed to benefit Preterm, NARAL, the Tamir Rice Foundation, TransOhio, Esperanza, and Cleveland Kids in Need. They also developed a Community Closet for Kings and queer folks in need of clothing, shoes and makeup. Before CKAP, another group for kings was formed called Cleveland Kings and Girls (CKG). CKG performs less frequently now, but they are still active on their Facebook page.
Women also can be Drag Queens and they are referred to by many names like femme or cis queens, sometimes even faux queens. That term has been known to cause controversy, as some people feel it is a form of cultural appropriation while others say it is an underrepresented part of drag.
Thankfully, in Cleveland, the drag community has been described as one big family.
Cassandra Harner, a hyperfemme drag queen named Dusty Bucket, runs Drag News Ohio on Instagram. This resource is great for finding drag events in your area and the posts cover all types of drag in most of Northeast Ohio.
Northeast Ohio hosts several regular drag events, mostly in the evening. Shows vary their lineups, and most are inclusive of Kings and Queens. You’ll never get the same thing at a show or event because each host painstakingly tailors acts to provide a mix of entertainment including music, lip-syncing, dancing, comedy and burlesque.
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