TORONTO DRAG HISTORY

Feel Your Fantasy's latest project is an exploration of Toronto's drag history. This ongoing work documents the emergence of drag culture in the city, from private dress up parties in the '40s through to Toronto's Halloween Ball tradition, the rise of Craig Russell, and much, much more.

Toronto Drag History 1 tackles The Dumbells, a touring troupe of performers who emerged out of the military ranks in WW1. The Dumbells first incorporated female impersonation into their act while touring France with the Canadian military, but went on to tour across the country, giving Canada one of its first doses of drag.

The slides below begin to tell their story.








Between the wars, culture changed. In WWII, senior military officials started to suspect the female impersonators in  military entertainment were homosexuals and the performances were phased out. 

By that point, The Dumbells had long since disbanded, but they left a beauty mark on Toronto drag history.
This introduction to female impersonation during variety shows across the country hinted at what was to come in Toronto two decades later in the '50s, when drag started to emerge on public stages once again.