Grease Cowboy Fever; or, the making of Johnny T

J Homosex. 2002;43(3-4):15-30. doi: 10.1300/J082v43n03_02.


Through a mix of theory, memoir and performance narrative, this chapter examines the making of drag persona Johnny T. as part of a king movement where the dominant cultural paradigm of gender is reconsidered and remastered. As seen in Grease, Saturday Night Fever and Urban Cowboy, pop culture icon John Travolta's particular blend of 50s greaser, faggy 70s disco, and 80s country masculinities are shown to be prime drag king conditions, particularly for a dyke who came of age during the 70s Travolta fever. While drawing from personal experience as a king, current trends in the king movement, and gender theory, this essay calls into question the lines between performing masculinity on and off the stage, inviting us to see both the work and play, the parody and realness, the struggle and liberation that make up the transgressive world of drag kinging and gender variance. Drawing upon gender theorists Judith Butler and Judith Halberstam, gender is exposed as a social construction both produced and performed, and as such, drag kinging is framed as an arena where gender is reconfigured.

MeSH terms

  • Culture
  • Female
  • Feminism
  • Homosexuality, Female / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Recreation*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Change