From the Appendix to Mother Camp: Field Methods
This essay is from Mother Camp:Female Impersonators in America, reprinted
mission of the University of Chicago Press, copyright ,  by Esther N
This happened toward the end of my first stay in Kansas City. It took abou
weeks to establish a good working rapport with the performers. I consider
incidents as being urged to perform and invitations to spend time with perf
during the daytime indicative, but most conclusive was the gradual relax
linguistic usage in my presence, especially the unselfconscious use of femin
nouns and names. (As with so many stigmatized groups, terms that are slan
and insulting from an outsider are self-identifying from an insider.) Finally
last week of the first trip, one of the performers offered me what I consider
a full ‘‘courtesy stigma’’ (Goffman :–).When asked by a visiting im
ator who I was, he replied casually, ‘‘Oh, she’s my husband.’’
It seems to me that I had relatively little difficulty establishing rapport. I
this was due to the influence of my sponsor, but some peculiarities of m
and personality must be taken into account. My status as a bookish female
me to present myself as a relatively asexual being, which was helpful. Altho
ownbackgroundismiddleclass,alienatedperspectivesarecongenialtome.B
of this, I may have erred on the side of ‘‘unconventional sentimentality’’
). However, the respect and liking that I had for many of the perform
have been decisive. Impersonators, like members of other stigmatized gro
extraordinarily sensitive to contempt.
Role Models
This essay is from Mother Camp:Female Impersonators in America, reprinted
mission of the University of Chicago Press, copyright ,  by Esther N
In two Broadway plays (since made into movies) dealing with English homo
The Killing of Sister George (lesbians) and Staircase (male homosexuals), drag
a prominent role. In George, an entire scene shows George and her lovers dre
tuxedos and top hats on their way to a drag party. In Staircase, the entire plot t
the fact that one of the characters has been arrested for ‘‘going in drag’’ to t
pub. Throughout the second act, this character wears a black shawl over hi
ders. This item of clothing is symbolic of full drag. This same character is
and, in my opinion, George was a very rare bird, a lesbian camp. Both plays
rate, abounded in camp humor. The Boys in the Band, another recent play and
doesn’t feature drag as prominently but has two camp roles and much camp
This concept was developed and suggested to me by Julian Pitt-Rivers.
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