Noxeema Jackson: When a straight man puts on a dress and gets his sexual kicks, he is a transvestite. When a man is a woman trapped in a man's body and has a little operation he is a Transsexual.
Miss Chi-Chi Rodriguez: I know that.
Noxeema Jackson: When a gay man has way too much fashion sense for one gender he is a drag queen.
Vida Boheme: Thank you.
Noxeema Jackson: And when a tired little Latin boy puts on a dress, he is simply a boy in a dress!
But then the movie goes on to get one fundamental thing about drag queens wrong: The three leads are in drag for the entire movie, including while driving cross-country, while getting ready for bed, and while playing basketball. As Ms. Jackson notes above, drag queens are not women; they are gay men who dress as women. They transform into a character for a show or a performance, and then they go back to being a man for their everyday lives. They do not actually identify as women--if they did, they would be transwomen, not drag queens. So the movie got that wrong, but it got so much else right: the way both drag queens and transgender people are treated in our culture, the courage and confidence it takes to be yourself when society tells you that what you are is wrong, and the way that courage and confidence can inspire others to make the world a better place.
I've been thinking lately about how works of fiction are like constellations, and this movie is a great example. When our ancestors looked to the stars in the night sky, they connected those glowing dots to make great bears, heroes, gods, and monsters. The mythological creatures they saw in the sky weren't actually there, of course, and in fact the stars that make up each constellation are typically light years apart, with no real-world relation to each other. That said, if you were to conclude that because constellations are entirely made up, they're useless, you'd be wrong. Arranging the stars in constellations allowed our ancestors to better navigate the seas and to identify patterns in the sky that led to a better understanding of the universe and our place in it. In other words, we took individual truths--the stars themselves--then made up false connections between those truths in order to illuminate other truths.
Great fiction does the same. It doesn't matter whether a story is about drag queens, children competing in brutal survival games, or Amazon princesses; so long as the characters behave like real people would and the fictional world reflects fundamental truths of the real world, we can gain a greater understanding of humanity through those stories. Maybe we're making up the connections between the dots--and maybe sometimes those made-up connections are completely wrong--but if the dots themselves are real then the story will illuminate truth for us just as constellations lit the way for ancient sailors.