Posted on Advocate

When Drag Is Activism

Published: 4/11/2015

The potent and confrontational art of drag has often been visible on the front lines of LGBT activism. That tradition continues today in the performances and campaigns of prominent queens here and abroad.

In 1971, the day before the U.K. Gay Liberation Front planned to hold London’s first official Pride march, half a dozen radical drag activists took it upon themselves to run a dress rehearsal. It was a resounding success, one which saw them chased down Oxford Street by the metropolitan police. Over a decade earlier, drag queens in Los Angeles had fought back against overzealous cops arresting their friends at Cooper’s Donuts (1959). Those in San Francisco rioted against relentless police harassment at Gene Compton’s cafeteria (1966). And of course, New York queens hurled bricks, clashed with police, and made history at the Stonewall Inn (1969).

Drag queens have been fighting on the front line since the dawn of the modern LGBT rights movement. Even after these flashpoints in queer history, many continued to do so, using their prominent community status to champion equality.

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