Cover of Bay Area Reporter Vol.5 No.14 (July 10, 1975) Photo: Bay Area Reporter

Drag is nothing new. It has existed proudly and out loud for centuries. If you attended a performance of William Shakespeare’s plays at The Globe in 1599, your Juliet, Lady Macbeth and Desdemona would have been played by men dressed in drag. 

In the states, former enslaved person William Dorsey Swann (Born: March 1860 – Died: Dec. 23, 1925) is credited with being the first self-identified drag queen. Dorsey Swann, like many other drag queens and performers of past and present, was also an activist for LGBTQ+ rights before we even had the terminology. 

Drag has always subverted the oftentimes strict definitions of gender. Queens and kings have entertained us, inspired us and stood on the front lines of opposition. At a time when drag is once again under attack, the members of News is Out have shared archival drag imagery from as far back as the 1950s. Click through the slideshow to see drag from around the country and pivotal times in LGBTQ+ history.

Do you have archival drag images you’d like to share with News is Out? Email us at