Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2016

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 08/31/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Lewin, Ellen

First Committee Member

Graham, Laura R.

Second Committee Member

Leap, William

Third Committee Member

Marra, Kim

Fourth Committee Member

Prussing, Erica


This dissertation focuses on the role of gender and sexuality in the US, and how people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender create and contest ideas of community and belonging through ritual and performance. I examine how race, class, and gender affect the dynamics of power and prestige within public LGBT spaces. Based on 18 months of fieldwork throughout the US, my dissertation research with drag queens, drag kings, promoters, audience members, and other stakeholders in national “gay” pageant competition systems examines the resources at stake for those involved, along with the cultural politics that inform unfolding events. The social spaces I work in are largely built by and dominated by gay men and transwomen; however, lesbians and transmen are increasingly participating. For many, this arena provides a space where individuals with non-normative gendered and sexualized identities can find not only safety and affirmation, but prestige and power. Yet, there remain deep divisions limiting the power of those assigned female at birth. I argue that this persistent inequality stems from the endurance of larger patterns of male privilege which shape US social life more generally. In the world of gay pageantry male dominance is achieved economically, structurally, and ideologically, even as many participants challenge normative gender frames.


vii, 247 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 235-247).


Copyright © 2016 Jill Marie Davis

Available for download on Monday, August 31, 2020

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