Although commonly intermixed as part of LGBTQ communities, transgender people and drag queens or kings aren’t necessarily related.
LGBTQ group GLAAD explained: “Transgender women are not cross-dressers or drag queens. Drag queens are men, typically gay men, who dress like women for the purpose of entertainment. Be aware of the differences between transgender women, cross-dressers, and drag queens. Use the term preferred by the individual.”
This distinction is very important to LGBTQ and trans advocates because it helps show the permanence of someone’s trans identity.
Being trans isn’t a matter of dressing up in different clothes. It’s a permanent identity that follows people throughout their entire lives. And while some trans people enjoy dressing up in exotic outfits to entertain others, the act of dressing up in clothes that match one’s gender identity reflects only one part of what it means to be trans.
Similarly, being a cross-dresser or drag queen or king doesn’t mean that people identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth. Some drag queens or kings may even be straight and cisgender — meaning they identify with the gender assigned to them at birth — and are only dressing up for entertainment. What cross-dressing means can vary a lot from individual to individual.
Getting this right is crucial to understanding the nuance of gender identity and expression, which are deeply ingrained and follow nearly all aspects of trans people’s lives. For many trans people, picking out gender-affirming clothes is only one small part of the social transition — the act of coming out as trans to family, friends, and society as a whole. The other steps — from medical procedures to dealing with how society as a whole reacts — often play a much bigger role in a trans person’s life.