What Is Drag, Anyway?

Martin Padgett at The Paris Review:

What is drag, anyway?

Drag intersects with impersonation but goes beyond it. Impersonation is nonthreatening mimicry: Jonathan Winters as Maude Frickert, Flip Wilson as Geraldine. They’re men in dresses, no more. Their brilliant comedy derives not from the assumption of gender but from the assumption that the only punch line is in the contrast between their feminine look and their masculine selves.

But a gay man in a dress, or a lesbian in short hair and men’s clothes, is an altogether different being. Their images course with the electric knowledge that the performers have voluntarily given up citizenship in their presumed gender. Drag decimates presumptions of sexual identity—​male, female, and all the points on the spectrum between those labels.

more here.