In the book Drag, Baker says cross-dressing remained a pervasive part of theater culture until the late 19th century, when it began to take a new form. Female impersonators developed their own vaudeville acts, wherein they created caricatures of women. Some of the first queen were the likes of Julian Eltinge, Barbette and Marcel Dunchamp, who started their own highly entertaining shows and became popular acts in the numerous vaudeville theatres across America from the turn of the 19th Century until the late 1930s.
This moment in time birthed such mocking personas as the "wench" and the "primadonna." But in order to find the first iterations of the "drag queen" as we know her today, we have to pinpoint the moment drag culture became inextricably linked with the gay community, which some believe didn't really happen until the 1930s. Before then, the scientific field of sexology was forming and began to talk about the 'third sex, The third sex was discussed as a feminine man or a masculine woman who desires members of the same sex. By the 1930s this scientific conversation had worked its way into the popular culture and linked drag with homosexuality. This connection marked the switch: drag culture no longer belonged to straight, white men. Can you believe that??? In this moment, we witness the emergence of the first true drag queens. It was then in the mid 30's that different kinds of drag queens occurred at the time. While other female impersonators existed, the drag queens were integral to the new, gay-friendly spaces that began to pop up. Queens like Jackie Jackson, Gilda, April Stevens, Jose Sarria and the girls of the infamous Jewel Box Revue, were among the first to start all drag revues and shows in little hidden clubs and taking drag in a new direction.
The modern iteration of the drag queen developed in these underground clubs over the next handful of decades. Meanwhile, in the public eye, female impersonation was given a comedic edge; cross-dressing was portrayed in film and TV as a punchline, or an object of strangeness. One classic example is Some Like It Hot, which follows a farcical, almost Shakespearean story of two men posing as women. In Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, Norman Bates is a deranged man who dresses as his mother before killing people. Who could forget the eerie shrieks of the score as the shower curtain pulls back to reveal the poorly styled wig on Norman Bates's head?