Like most people, I came to queer history looking for a sign that I wasn’t alone. I thought that understanding it was like a mechanical exercise in grammar, where I just had to change the tense on the information I already knew — that we are everywhere; we were everywhere; we will be everywhere. I assumed I understood what I was seeing: namely, myself in a cute period outfit. I thought if I looked long enough, I would find gay people just like me throughout recorded history.
Thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race, there’s no question that drag is having a mainstream moment. Their recent VH1 finale had nearly a million viewers, making it their most watched episode ever. From your local library’s reading hour to DragCon to YouTube, there has been a subsequent boom in all-ages spaces where drag is welcome. But as the art form moves out of bars and into living rooms, what does that mean for kids playing dress-up? Or for parents of children entering into what is, at heart, a bar scene built around adult gay men and trans women? And finally, what does it mean for drag itself — which at its best is often subversive, raunchy, and cutting — to suddenly have to cater to families?
The next year, Life Magazine profiled Kuromiya in a piece on young activists, discussing his Civil Rights and anti-War work. But it didn’t talk about his gay rights activism or his close relationship with Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party. In 1970, after helping to found the Gay Liberation Front, Kuromiya presented a workshop on gay rights at the Panther’s Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.