Kinging in the Heartland; or, The Power of Marginality

Thomas Piontek
2003 Journal of Homosexuality  
Theorizations of the drag king phenomenon and definitions of "the Drag King" thus far have relied almost exclusively on Judith Halberstam's description of the drag king scenes in New York, London, and San Francisco. In order to expand the scope of the investigation of drag king culture and as an example of the range of drag kings and drag king acts that have developed across the U.S. and across the world, this article focuses on H.I.S. Kings, a group of women, who have been performing in
more » ... erforming in Columbus, Ohio since 1996. By infusing drag with a dose of theory, which is always tempered by their outrageous sense of humor, H.I.S. Kings have developed what arguably is one of the most interesting varieties of kinging, an approach to the genre of the drag show that Halberstam's model cannot account for. Unlike kings in New York, for example, H.I.S. Kings frequently utilize the supposedly gay male form of camp in their performance of multiple masculinities and femininities, and they create innovative ensemble numbers that engage the racial and gender politics of drag. The example of H.I.S. Kings calls into question any theorization of the drag king phenomenon that ignores cultural developments in the heartland by focusing exclusively on cities traditionally considered the centers of queer culture.
doi:10.1300/j082v43n03_08 pmid:12769276 fatcat:ugeezymzzbgyrhfuhpcvlqhbb4