Date of Award

2011

Advisor(s)

Edward Cahill

Second Advisor

Amy Aronson

Abstract

Drag performers and transexuals exist on the margins of the two gender binary. By existing on these margins these performers use both their physical bodies and humor to lampoon and subvert the gender binary and broaden the understanding of how gender is performed. Two performers, Rae Bourbon, a female impersonator, and Christine Jorgensen, a transexual who became a performer, placed their marginalized bodies on the stage and by doing so they heighten the subversion and critique of gender inherent in their performances.Gender is a normalizing force that dominates human interactions. Kessler and McKenna open their work on gender with the statement “as we go about out daily lives, we assume that every human being is either a male or a female.” This assumption leads us to classify every person encountered as fitting neatly into one of these two genders and from there we make a whole series of assumptions about that person’s physical anatomy, tastes, preferences, and desires. One transexual whom Kessler and McKenna interviewed asserts that “gender is an anchor” around which all other facts of the body are contextualized.Similarly Daniel Jones, a performer who takes the stage under the cross gender name and persona of Jomama Jones, said that he felt “people want to fit you in a box” and that they will become uncomfortable if they are unable to successfully do it.