The crowd may have been small, but the personalities certainly were not at the University of Maryland’s first Drag-U-Cation performance.
Shade was thrown, tea was sipped and people were read like books.
The University Health Center and SHARE, a peer program serving to increase sexual education on campus, teamed up to host the event held April 14.
Simonne Cruz, a senior neurobiology and physiology major with a minor in LGBT studies, said being a peer educator through SHARE and trying to teach inclusivity made her realize there were very few drag shows on campus.
Cruz is a transfer student, and after experiencing her first drag show at her old college, she said it opened her eyes to a whole new culture.
Cruz worked with a team and the Nyumburu Cultural Center to bring this event to campus and spread the knowledge and experience she got from seeing her first drag shown to others, as well as give student performers a platform.
“Not only is it providing students a place to come and experience this, it’s giving students a place to perform,” Cruz said. “Students that want to do drag have the area where they can come and debut themselves and get that really positive feedback from their community.”
Performers weren’t limited to the student body. Anita Minett, who has been in the drag world for 14 years, hosted the event and performed two numbers. His husband, Justin Sane, has been performing for over six years and also danced two numbers.
Other performers like Remi Liang, a senior mechanical engineering major, and David Eber, a finance and information systems major, made their first on-stage appearance in drag. Liang performed under the name Tiger Lily to “Calling All The Monsters,” and Eber became Miss Ovation as he danced to “Werqin Girl.”
Both spoke about using drag as a way to navigate gender in the panel held after the show.
Liang is a transgender male who is unable to fully transition due to his personal life. He said he has found a family through drag and an outlet to accept the fact that transitioning is not possible at this juncture in his life.
“It’s a way for me to reclaim my femininity in a positive way, to reconcile with the fact that I can’t transition even though I would like to,” Liang said.
Eber echoed this, saying Drag has provided him with an outlet to explore and embrace his feminine side, something he does not often get to do.
“I’ve always wanted to present myself in a feminine way, and then I saw performance art and it really connected with me as someone who has never actually identified with art,” he said. “I feel a lot of trepidation because I really want to paint my nails and do more feminine things in everyday life, but I can’t.”
Performer and neurobiology and physiology major Connor Laughland, said they discovered drag three years ago when they were trying to avoid their queer identity by watching more masculine shows.
“I saw Drag Race and I thought ‘okay, this is probably about cars’ but no, I started watching and was like, ‘this is much better,’” they said.
They said Drag Race opened up a whole new world for them and led them to try drag on their own. Laughland has discovered who they are, but said others don’t always accept queer as an identification because they are more comfortable with the idea that there is only gay or straight, trans or not.
Laughland said they have grown immune to this type of ostracization and found an accepting community in the drag world.
“It’s been an outlet for challenging my own personal gender, so eventually this will be me on the streets, so get ready to avoid eye contact,” they said.
Other topics covered in the panel were pronouns, why gender roles exist – mostly in the form and clothing and appearance – and how to make those in the LGBTQ community comfortable in settings like the workplace.
Cruz said she hopes this event will only grow from here and hopes to do it every semester so more students can have a safe space to explore gender and what drag means to them.
For Minett, drag has offered what many can only hope to find in life: a place to forget troubles and just be.
“Drag is an escape from the real world,” he said. “It allows me to cut loose, say things, do things and be somebody who I’m not on the daily.”
Featured Photo Credit: Anita Minett, the host of the event, announced performers, made jokes and talked about his own experiences as a drag queen. In between performances, he commented on the student performer, asked questions and addressed complications of the outfits people in drag wear. “As a bitch who’s been doing this for 14 years, I aint seen someone move like that comfortable in heels.” (Julia Lerner/Bloc Reporter)
Kira Sansone is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.