"You all are sisters! We are all family!" The construction of parenthood in 'RuPaul's Drag Race'

Main Article Content

Davide Passa


Drag queens epitomise gender fluidity, where the heteronormative binarism male/female is blurred and parodied. Their unconventional nature is reflected in the structure of their community, where they have created alternatives to the heteronormative family, which is historically based on heterosexual marriage and parenthood. Drag families are to be seen as places of personal and financial support, a refuge for young gay men who have been rejected by their “real” families and have financial problems. This study seeks to give prominence to the construction of parenthood in RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009-2021) by analysing the discourse – i. e. the system of statements – around drag family, parenthood and sisterhood in a corpus of 174 episodes. The research is carried out in the light of Corpus Linguistics, with the use of #Lancsbox, a software for the analysis of language data and corpora.

Article Details

How to Cite
Passa, D. “‘You All Are Sisters! We Are All family!’ The Construction of Parenthood in ’RuPaul’s Drag Race’”. Linguaculture, vol. 12, no. 2, Dec. 2021, pp. 127-44, doi:10.47743/lincu-2021-2-0199.
Translation and Language Studies
Author Biography

Davide Passa, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

Davide PASSA is a PhD student in Studies in English literatures, cultures, language, and translation (Language and Translation Studies) at Sapienza University of Rome (in co-tutelle with University of Silesia in Katowice; tutors: Irene Ranzato, Adam Wojtaszek), where he has also been nominated Graduate Teaching Assistant in L-LIN/12 English language and translation. He has mainly worked on non-standard English varieties and their representation and translation in audiovisual and literary products. He is a member of AIA (Associazione Italiana di Anglistica), EST (European Society for Translation Studies) and IATIS (International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies), as well as part of the Editorial Staff of the class-A journal Status Quaestionis. He has published articles on the fictional use of sociolects and their rendering in translation, with particular attention to fictional gayspeak and drag lingo. His PhD thesis focuses on the linguistic characterisation of fictional gay men in twenty-first century British drama. His main research interests are Sociolinguistics, (Audiovisual) Translation Studies, language and sexuality studies, corpus linguistics. He teaches English language and culture in secondary schools.


Barrett, Rustt. “Supermodels of the World, Unite! Political Economy and the Language of Performance Among African American Drag Queens.” The Language and Sexuality Reader, edited by Cameron, Deborah and Kulick, Don. London, New York: Routledge, 2006, pp.151-163.

Barrett, Rusty. “Supermodels of the World Unite! Political Economy and the Language of Performance among African-American Drag Queens.” Beyond the Lavender Lexicon: Authenticity, Imagination, and Appropriation in Lesbian and Gay Languages, edited by Leap, William L. Buffalo, New York: Gordon and Breach, 1995, pp. 207-226.

Brezina, Vaclav et al.: #LancsBox v. 6. (software). Available at: http://corpora.lancs.ac.uk/lancsbox. (21.08.2021).

Burr, Vivien. An Introduction to Social Constructionism. London, New York: Routledge, 1995.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Taylor & Francis, 1990.

Cameron, Deborah and Kulick, Don. Language and Sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Chambers, Samuel. “Telepistemology of the Closet; or, The Queer Politics of Six Feet Under.” Journal of American Culture, vol. 26, no.1, 2003, pp. 24–41.

Chauncey, George. Gay New York. Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. Basic Books, 1995.

Ferguson, Susan. L. “Drawing Fictional Lines: Dialect and Narrative in the Victorian Novel.” Style 2, 1998, pp. 1- 17.

Ferrante, Anna Antonia. “Super Troopers: The Homonormative Regime of Visibility in RuPaul’s Drag Race.” RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Shifting Visibility of Drag Culture, edited by Brennan, Niall and Gudelunas, David. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, pp. 153-166.

Foucault, Michel. The Archeology of Knowledge. London: Tavistock, 1972.

Gerson, J. and Peiss, K. “Boundaries, Negotiation, Consciousness: Reconceptualizing Gender Relations.” Social Problems,vol. 32, no.4, pp. 317-331.

Harvey, Keith. “Describing Camp Talk: Language/Pragmatics/Politics.” Language and Literature, vol. 9, no.3, 2000, pp. 240-260.

Hopkins, Steven. J. “Let the Drag Race Begin.” Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 46, no. 3-4, 2004, pp. 135-149.

Hymes, Dell. “Models of the Interaction of Language and Social Life.” Directions in Sociolinguistics: The Ethnography of Communication, edited by Gumperz, John and Hymes, Dell. New York: Holt, Rhinehart & Winston, 1972, pp. 35-71.

Hymes, Dell. “Ways of Speaking.” Explorations in the Ethnography of Speaking, edited by Bauman, Richard and Sherzer, Joel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974, pp. 433-451.

Johnsen, O.R. “He‘s My Sister! Gender Inversion in Gay Men‘s Speech.” Språk, kön och kultur, edited by Nordenstam, K. and Norén, K. Göteborg, 2001, pp. 133-141.

Johnsen, Ole Ringdal. “‘He’s a Big Old Girl!’ Negotiation by Gender Inversion in Gay Men’s Speech.” Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 54, no.1-2, 2008, pp. 150-168.

Kozloff, Sarah. Overhearing Film Dialogue. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.

Kulick, Don. “Gay and Lesbian Language.”Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 29, 2000, pp. 243-285.

Labov, William. Sociolinguistic Patterns. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1972.

Livia, Anna. Pronoun Envy. Literary Uses of Linguistic Gender. Oxford: OUP, 2001.

Livia, Anna. “The Future of Queer Linguistics.” Language and Sexuality: Contesting Meaning in Theory and Practice , edited by Campbell-Kibler et al. Stanford, Calif: CSLI Publications, 2002, pp.87-98.

Lyons, John. New Horizons in Linguistics, London: Penguin, 1970.

McCraney, Tarell Alvin. Wig Out! Faber & Faber, 2014.

McEnery, Tony and Hardie, Andrew. Corpus linguistics: Method, theory and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Metzger, Megan. M. That's Ru-volting! how reality TV reimagines perceptions of American success. College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations, 2016.

Moncrieff, Michael and Lienard, Pierre. “A Natural History of the Drag Queen Phenomenon.” Evolutionary Psychology, vol. 15, no.2, 2017, pp. 1-14.

Moore, Ramey. “Everything Else is Drag: Linguistic Drag and Gender Parody on RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Journal of Research in Gender Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, 2013, pp. 15-26.

Motschenbacher, Heiko. “Taking Queer Linguistics Further: Sociolinguistics and Critical Heteronormativity Research.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language, vol. 212, pp.149-179.

Motschenbacher, Heiko and Stegu, Martin. “Queer Linguistic Approaches to Discourse.” Discourse & Society, vol. 24, no.5, 2013, pp. 519-535.

Nagel, Joane. Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality: Intimate Intersections, Forbidden Frontiers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Oostrik, Sven. Doing Drag: From Subordinate Queers to Fabulous Queens Drag as an Empowerment Strategy for Gay Men (thesis), 2014.

Parker, Ian. Discourse Dynamics. Critical analysis for social and individual psychology. London, New York: Routledge, 2014.

RuPaul, Charles. Workin’ It!: RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Style, Harper Collins, 2010.

Saussure, Ferdinand de. Course in General Linguistics. Bally C., Sechehaye, A. (eds), trans. R. Harris, London: Duckworth, 1966.

Schacht, Steven P. and Lisa, Underwood. “The Absolutely Fabulous but Flawlessly Customary World of Female Impersonators.” Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 46, no. 3-4, 2004, pp. 1-17.

Sherzer, Joel. “The Ethnography of Speaking: A Critical Appraisal.” Linguistics and Anthropology, edited by Saville-Troike, Muriel. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 1977.

Sokalska-Bennett, Aleksandra. “Imagine a boy who is adopted by a Pair of Lesbians (Poor Little Sod).” Journal of Language and Sexuality, vol. 6, no.1, 2017, pp. 61-89.

Swann, Joan et al. A Dictionary of Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004.

Tognini-Bonelli, Elena. Corpus Linguistics at Work. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2001

Warner, Michael. “Introduction: Fear of a Queer Planet.” Social Text, vol. 29, 1991: pp. 3-17.

Way, Christopher. We Are Family! I’ve got my drag sister with me: an examination of the relationship between visual media and drag family structure. Lake Forest College. (thesis), 2014.

West, Candace and Zimmerman, Don. “Doing Gender.” Gender and Society, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 125-151.