I am proud to say that tonight Advocate will conclude an extremely successful LGBTA Heritage Month with our 6th Annual Drag Show. This event, featuring performances from a diverse group of Loyola students, is a favorite of many students, staff, and faculty because of the positive and exuberant atmosphere it creates in the middle of campus. Every year we have the privilege of welcoming hundreds of community members to Rambler Room to cheer on students who have the bravery to get on stage and perform another version of themselves.
In past years I have gotten many questions about why Advocate hosts a drag show. Many have asked me to explain what performing in drag means. Others share the opinion that drag is counter-productive to our cause of expanding LGBTQ acceptance, while a final group is uncomfortable with an event that challenges normative gender behavior being held on our Jesuit Catholic campus.
In response, I would say that none of these questions or comments are completely wrong. The first benefit of having this event is that it provides a venue to have important conversations around what it means to be a gendered individual in a spiritual community. Next, I would like to invite individuals who have questions about this event to come and see it. (Make sure to get there early, however, because it is going to be packed!) There is the potential for drag to be done in a way that is harmful to our efforts as a community, but I can confidently say that this is not the case with Advocate’s show.
As a student community, we organize this annual event in an effort to share a different outlook on society with our fellow students. As queer people we by definition do not fit and must perform every day. We are continuously told to express ourselves and act in ways that are not congruent with who we truly are. The Drag Show provides a venue for queer students to express that lived reality through turning normative behavior on its head. For one night of the year students do not only feel safe challenging expected behavior, but enthusiastically supported in doing so by their peers.
I would also suggest that after watching a friend purposefully construct another identity, the expectations around how we all act as gendered individuals are revealed for the choices they have always been. Those of us who have never waivered in our gender identity are still held to very limited definitions of masculinity and femininity that restrict how we express compassion for others, build inclusive communities, and engage in our spiritual lives. Only when we have full autonomy over our identities is it possible to have truly authentic selves. I know that after being a part of this experience, audience members walk away with more tools to critically reflect on how to challenge those restrictive definitions that get in the way of authenticity.
The Drag Show exists to create spaces that are affirmative to queer students, but also as a catalyst to important conversations that affect us all. Do not let the glitter, the lights, and the spectacle fool you into thinking it is frivolous. We are a community committed to supporting diversity and understanding each other and ourselves in a holistic way. This necessitates conversations around gender and gender expression and I invite you all to come out and join us for a night that will further that goal through an incredible show and enriching discussion.
Loyola University Chicago