Should We Be Dragging “Drag”?

Written by Jennifer Jenkins.

St. Mary’s LGBTQ+ services brought Perry’s Drag Brunch to the Bruce Davis Theatre and soon they’ll bring a student drag pageant in April. Perry’s features the queens: Bombalicious Eklaver, Whitney GucciGoo, India Larelle Houston, Veronica Vron Lush, and Kedra Lattimore. This sounds like a fun show to see, but some students disagree with the concept. Some believe that drag hurts the trans community, especially women. Others believe that drag is a form of entertainment and an art that doesn’t hurt anyone.

Dressing against the norm for performance purposes is nothing new. This goes all the way back to Ancient Greece where men played women’s roles on stage. The term “drag” started as slang and has evolved to describe a style of performance and costume. Drag queen, Whitney GucciGoo, defines drag as “a performer who takes pride in their work, strives to make each performance memorable while elevating whatever they are doing to the next level.” She thinks it is about “being as over the top extra as you can be and embracing that to its fullest degree.” 

GucciGoo’s opinion on drag shows the modern redefining of the art. Supporters like her believe drag can be viewed and practiced by anyone. Of course, there are those who practice drag that are not up with the times. In an interview with The Guardian, RuPaul stated, “Drag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it’s not men doing it, because at its core it’s a social statement and a big f-you to male-dominated culture.” RuPaul’s Drag Race, a televised drag competition, was a big deal for the LGBTQ+ community when it first aired in 2009. It helped drag queens become part of the mainstream and was a way for the public to familiarize themselves with the art. The current problem with this show is that there have been incidences of encouraging offensive slurs and slang. Since it is a representation of the LGBTQ+ community and it is in the mainstream, it can make some viewers believe these behaviors are normal and okay. There are also problems with cis drag queens accidentally using their voices to speak for transgender women. When cis queens “pretend to be a woman”, they can give a false pretense for transgender women. This misrepresentation can cause individuals to mistake someone’s costume for another’s daily life. 

Because of the controversy, St. Mary’s Transgenda held a special discussion on drag during one of their bi-weekly meetings. Shameless plug— these meetings are every other Thursday at 8:00 PM in the Campus Center. The meeting before Perry’s Drag Show featured Tayo Clyburn, St. Mary’s Vice President of Diversity. During the Transgenda meeting, students shared their concerns, questions, and feelings about the relationship between drag and the trans community. Some topics were difficult; many questions don’t have just one right answer. It seemed that all were in agreement that inoffensive drag shows that had performers from a variety of backgrounds are okay. It was also important to the students at Transgenda that drag shows bring to light the dangers and hate the transgender community faces. 

Throughout Perry’s Drag Show, queens interacted with students, received tips, and brought them into their acts. The acts composed of lip syncing to artists like Ariana Grande and Britney Spears. Veronica Vron Lush used DC comics characters Harley Quinn, Wonderwoman, and Supergirl in her acts while donning a glitter beard. Bombalicious Eklaver had more comedic acts with stunning costumes. The last song Bombalicious performed was a version of Dreamgirls’ “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” featuring different bits of sound such as laughter and goat bleats. Kedra Lattimore pumped the audience with Lizzo hits and wowed us with her stunning, red number and her sparkling, blue dress. India Larelle Houston called for seniors to come to the stage during the middle of the show. She asked each senior their major and what they wanted to do after graduation. Houston and pulled character traits from each senior’s answers and gave them words of encouragement. At the end of the show, students interacted with each of the queens and took pictures. 

When drag is used for comedy and the performers use terms that are offensive towards the transgender community, that’s a problem. Drag can be inclusive and informative. Some performers use drag as a creative outlet, some use it to explore their own gender identity, and some use it to pay the bills. There are a variety of styles that a performer can lean towards. Whitney GucciGoo knows “comedy queens, camp queens, look queens, beauty queens, trick queens, dance queens, avant-garde queens” and the list goes on. There’s a flavor for everyone.

What’s important is the discussions we have about drag and its effects on different communities. At the Transgenda meetings, Tayo Clyburn prompted students to “think about it beyond bringing a drag show to campus, but bringing a conversation to campus.” When we discuss drag, we make it into much more of a show. We make it into an informative experience. Clyburn also said, “Drag shows are whatever we as students decide they are.” If anyone would like to get in touch with the Rainbow Room or Transgenda, please email Calvin Ryan (cgryan@smcm.edu), Alex Clay (arclay@smcm.edu), Dylan Roeper (laroeper@smcm.edu), or email Emma Slyker (ekslyker@smcm.edu) if you would like a friend.

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