LOS ANGELES — Before the third incarnation of RuPaul's Drag Con even began, production company World of Wonder founders Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey had Donald Trump on the brain. The 45th president's election inspired some specific programming at the Los Angeles drag convention, including one panel explicitly about the art of drag in Trump's America.
But walking around the Los Angeles Convention Center over the weekend, the moments crafted to be explicit referenda on Trump weren't the focus. Instead, it was this community of love and support — a community that will bond together to overcome differences in the face of a much greater enemy. On that front, Drag Con succeeded spectacularly.
It is nothing short of tremendous that Drag Con drew more than 40,000 attendees Saturday and Sunday. From young to old, famous to underground, Drag Race fanatics to lovers of drag in general, the crowd was diverse, energetic and, most of all, fabulous. After spending two days surrounded at all times by giant glamazons in neon hair, it can be disorienting to return anywhere else.
Drag Con is a cocoon of beauty, acceptance and warmth. It's so loving, you can practically hear conservative pundits in the distance crying "snowflakes!" and "safe spaces!" But to reduce this event misunderstands what it is. Drag is the resistance. Drag is the kind of progressive, norm-challenging art we need now more than ever. Drag is the past, present and future.
During his keynote speech, RuPaul addressed Trump in all but name. Other than the explicitly Trump-focused panel (which still got away from Trump quite a bit), it was one of the only times all weekend the president was specifically discussed — and it still wasn't very specific. Rather, Ru focused more on what Trump's supporters saw in him.
"[There are] people who don't want the world to move forward," Ru said. "They took on this used-car salesman who told them they could turn back the hands of time. We ain't going back, baby."
The latter bit of that quote drew enthusiastic applause from the crowd, a group of people who need society to continue to progress. As season eight winner Bob the Drag Queen put it during the Trump panel: while "for the first time in the history of America, an overwhelming part of the population feels the administration is against them," that's nothing new for queer people. For someone like All Stars season two winner Alaska, who noted during the Trump panel that her drag was born of frustration with George W. Bush's administration, Trump's election is not a surprise; it's a rallying cry.
The mere existence of Drag Con is rebellious. For someone like Eureka, a big and beautiful queen from season nine, to steal the show, or for trans queens like season two's Sonique and season six's Gia Gunn to talk openly about their identity — that's all revolutionary. When you're queer, trans, gay, bi, lesbian, fluid or nonconforming, your very existence is an act of rebellion.
At the beginning of her keynote, RuPaul announced that Drag Con would be expanding, hosting a second one in New York City come Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. During a time when events like these could easily feel threatened and downscale, hundreds of queens and tens of thousands of fans aren't backing down. Instead, they're going on the offensive, becoming louder and larger. Is Drag Con still a business? Absolutely, and it's smart to keep that in mind. As Pepsi showed us all too clearly, resistance can never truly live within a venture trying to make money. But right now, Drag Con is a business pointed in the right direction, offering young, silenced queer voices a megaphone.
Standing on the main floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center's west hall, it was hard to feel anything short of inspired. The resistance lives with the queer people, trans people and allies collected there. If anyone can be trusted to lead the rebellion, it's giant drag queens who have had to fight all their lives to be themselves.
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