She wore a bright blue, skin-tight skirt, four-inch black stiletto heels and a metal-studded black bra; her curly blonde hair hung down her back. My friend, holding a vegan and gluten-free pie for the performers, turned to me.
“That butt,” she said. “Now that is a butt.”
It turns out this drag queen was the host for the night: Miss Emma Behavin’. When not in drag, he is known as Kyle Watson. This was not Watson’s first time as host, and it showed — the confidence he displayed onstage was genuine. When the show had a rough start due to the sound system, Behavin’ dutifully marched onstage and began to tell jokes. After all, the show must go on. Fortunately, the AV team quickly fixed the problem and the real performances got started.
Attending a drag show is like stepping into an alternate universe: the audience is allowed to suspend disbelief and embrace the unknown. It is a space where feminine glamour is embraced without the constraints of objectification. Gender is expressed in a way society has yet to accept, while performers of all shapes, sizes and abilities take the stage.
The QASU drag show featured performers of all genders. There were drag queens like Lezzy McGuire and drag kings like Billy JoJo. The seasoned queens showed off their provocative sexuality while amateurs braved the stage with fun, heartfelt dances.
After one of the most lucrative performances of the night, Fantina Deluxe shouted out to his mother, “Mama, how do you feel to know your 21-year-old son is wearing some of your clothes?” Here was a space where her son could truly shake what his mama gave him without fear of harassment.
Providing this space is exactly what QASU intended to do.
“(The purpose of the drag show) is to give people a safe space to explore or perform gender and have fun,” said Mayson Longley, a performer and member of QASU. “It brings queer people and allies together in a space where they’re fee to be themselves.”
QASU created an environment of unconditional inclusiveness. They sold shirts with the saying “trans*? fine by me,” and there was a reserved section for deaf and hard of hearing students. These students were not let down by the ASL interpreter Dawn Stevenson. Not only did she sign impeccably, she danced and grooved to every performance. In fact, she did so well that she even earned some money of her own.
The energy of the audience was palpable, and the upbeat music created a lively environment. While most performers chose trendy pop music, a few went with more unconventional tunes. There was a performance to the Pokémon theme song and a duo danced to “Business Time” by Flight of the Conchords.
The night also provided a few educational moments: the display of how to properly use a condom followed a lesson on drag show etiquette, such as how to tip.
While all this fanfare is an easy attraction for college students, there were also plenty of less-traditional members in attendance. A child was accompanied by her parents, and an 87-year-old woman was accompanied by her granddaughter. At intermission I asked the student how her grandma was doing.
“She absolutely loves it!” she said. “She even wants to come back for the next show!”
From grannies to undergrads, attendees left the show razzled and dazzled. Fortunately for them, this is not the last drag show of the year — the second performance will occur during spring semester.
BY APRIL EMIG firstname.lastname@example.org