From Embracing to Rejecting: The History of Drag Shows in the US Military

The US military’s stance on drag shows has shifted drastically over the years. While drag shows were once embraced by military leaders during World War II, they are now considered unacceptable and have been banned from military bases. This article delves into the history of drag shows in the military and explores the reasons for the change in attitude.

The Early Days

During World War II, the military partnered with the USO and the American Red Cross to provide entertainment for troops both at home and abroad. Drag shows were a popular form of entertainment, and soldiers themselves often performed in them. The Army Special Services even published a handbook on how to produce these shows, which they referred to as “Girly Shows.” The handbook provided tips on how to make the GIs look good for the highly choreographed “Pony Ballet,” which involved soldiers wearing tutus and army boots.

The Shift in Attitude

The current leaders of the US military have a very different view of drag shows. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently stated that tax-supported drag shows have no place on military bases. This statement came after a drag show scheduled to celebrate Pride Month at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada was canceled, despite there having been two previous shows in recent years. The drag queen who was supposed to headline the show, Coco Montrese, argued that the shows were privately funded.

The Culture Wars

The shift in attitude towards drag shows reflects a broader cultural shift in America. Drag shows have become a centerpiece of the culture wars, with some arguing that they promote acceptance and inclusivity, while others view them as immoral and inappropriate. The military’s decision to ban drag shows from military bases is just one more example of this ongoing debate.

The history of drag shows in the US military is a complex one. While they were once embraced and even encouraged by military leaders, they are now considered unacceptable. This shift in attitude reflects a broader cultural shift in America and highlights the ongoing debate over the role of drag shows in society. While opinions on the issue may vary, one thing is clear: drag shows have played an important role in American culture and will likely continue to do so for years to come.


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