History books have done well to document the Red Scare when Senator Joseph McCarthy spearheaded a relentless campaign to expose individuals suspected of being Communists or traitors to the nation. Far less covered in the textbooks—if even mentioned at all—was the Lavender Scare: a period of time kicked off by an announcement by President Eisenhower declaring gay men and lesbians to be a threat to the security of the country and therefore unfit for government service.
Before “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Before “To Wong Foo.” And, yes hunty, before “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Far before the pop-culture obsession with watching those padded hips sashay away, drag queens have been working the stages for decades. From hole-in-the-wall gay dive bars to main stage pageants to bachelorette parties in random straight bars, there’s a generation of grand dames who have paved the path for current performers.