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Drag In Focus: A Close-Up Of El Paso's Drag Scene

Jun 3, 2023 - Jul 8, 2023

The Borderland is home to a vibrant drag community and for decades LGBTQIA+ nightclubs served as some of the only venues to showcase and elevate this art form. But what initially began as underground performance art in Queer spaces has, in the last two decades, become a phenomenon around the world due to ongoing community activism and high-profile projects like RuPaul’s Drag Race, We’re Here, Boulet Brothers’ Dragula, Call Me Mother, Queen of the Universe, and more. These projects have helped to showcase drag on an international stage as an unapologetic assertion of freedom of identity, inclusion, and de-stigmatization. Locally, El Paso’s Drag Queen Story Hour has brought drag to the mainstream for all ages in libraries, schools, and bookstores, providing kids with examples of proud Queer role models.

Yet, with its long overdue recognition, this art form has also received intense scrutiny, sparking outrage and fearmongering among conservatives. In Texas, as in other states, legislators have recently made efforts to criminalize drag performances, particularly story hours for children, with bills like SB 12 and SB 1601. SB 12 would impose a $10,000 fine on businesses hosting drag performances for children, while SB 1601 would withhold state funding from libraries that host drag story hours. These legal battles represent not only an attack on the free expression of artists but on the queer community as a whole, particularly those who are transgender or gender non-conforming.

This pop-up exhibition celebrates El Paso’s contemporary drag scene through photography and costume by highlighting local performers as role models and vital members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In displaying these performers’ work, this exhibit asserts that drag is not a crime but a meaningful, highly skilled art that honors the diversity and expression of the human experience.

Part of the El Paso Museums & Cultural Affairs Family.