Sarah Grace Goolden
On Feb. 17, UNCG will welcome three former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestants to a drag show at the EUC. This will be one of several drag queen-related programs the university has offered over the past couple of years. The event is an amazing way to celebrate diversity while still being a performance all are welcome to.
The event will feature Ms. Kasha Davis, Coco Montrese and Kimora Blac, who have all competed in the reality competition series hosted by Emmy-winning host, RuPaul. Since its start in 2009, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has created a platform for more than a hundred performers to showcase their talent. The series has gained tremendous popularity, warranting several spin-offs including “UnTucked”, “RuPaul’s Drag U” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Ruvealed.” Additionally RuPaul’s Dragcon was created, a platform for fans to interact with the contestants as well as other celebrities in celebration of drag culture. The convention is returning for its fourth year in 2018.
Drag queens have existed for hundreds of years yet they are just now beginning to get mainstream attention. For a very long time, female impersonation was very taboo, which is evident even today. This is why events like drag shows and drag bingo are so important to the LGBTQ+ community. When these programs are provided, they fight the stereotypes that drag queens are somehow inappropriate and immoral, as they have been viewed in the past. For a university to celebrate their talent, as opposed to condemning it, is a huge step in the right direction for the acceptance of the drag community.
Erin Parish, program director for the Campus Activities and Programs office and Elliot Kimball, Assistant Director for the Office of Intercultural Engagement, have been working together to bring fun and inclusive activities to the students of UNCG.
“Drag has played an important role in the rich history of the LGBTQ+ movements in the United States, and creates a fun atmosphere where rigid and normalized gender roles are challenged,” says Parrish. She adds that drag shows serve as “safe and brave spaces” and hopes to continue providing these programs.
Not everyone agrees with that sentiment, however. In 2017, UNCG College Republican Chairwoman Ilinca Scalco referred to the drag queens as “weak men dressing up as women” with “mental issues” on social media in response to a Drag Bingo event. The UNCG College Democrats promptly released an official statement on Twitter condemning the comments and reiterating their support for the drag community of Greensboro.
The event in question welcomed more than 300 students and the drag show in the spring of 2017 hosted over 500. As a university that “is committed to protecting the rights of all,” opportunities like these are ways for UNCG’s diverse student body to feel empowered and accepted. Despite the backlash, it seems drag queens are here to stay.
“As a part of our mission, Intercultural Engagement seeks to bring everyone to the table when offering activities, dialogues, and programs that encourage students to engage across differences. Similarly, Campus Activities and Programs seeks to offer events that reach and appeal to the greatest number of UNCG students. Opinions that demonize drag, and other forms of creative and diverse gender expression, only illustrate the need for more spaces where students can learn more in a fun and informal way,” Parrish concludes.
There was a long period of time where the same drag queens that will be performing this month would have been arrested for expressing themselves. In the late 1800’s, over 40 cities in America passed laws against crossdressing. After the Stonewall Riots of 1969, several activists would surface to fight for the Gay Liberal Movement. This would include Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, both self-identified drag queens and trans women of color. It is heroes like them that helped push for acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community.
These events are a celebration of that struggle for equality. Years ago, drag queens had to perform in secret for fear of being attacked or jailed. There are still many obstacles which the LGBT+ community will have to overcome, but to welcome these three talented performers shows the bright future for not only UNCG, but for the community at large.