Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Beards and Heels: Drag and Gender Expression

Cate Bounds


Artistic expression has long been understood to have positive emotional effects, on a personal level, and more recently on a clinical level. But how effective is this outside of the therapist or psychiatrist’s office? Can less conventional forms of expression still be just as effective at helping us to understand ourselves? Can a man put on a wig, some lipstick, and a pair of pumps, climb onto a stage, mouth along to a Britney Spears song, and walk away from the experience with a better understanding of himself, his gender identity and those of the people around him? Drag is an art form that allows individuals to explore and discover new things about a potentially sensitive part of their identity, their gender. Because drag confronts gender directly, many individuals find it especially therapeutic and use it to explore their own gender identity and how they want to express their gender to those around them.