As April Awareness winds to a close, the University’s chapter of Out in Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics (oSTEM) broke new ground with their inaugural annual drag show, “Drag Them,” on Sunday, April 21. The thrilling evening was hosted by the two event organizers, Miss Anne Thropy and Suey Sigh Delle — juniors Coleman Haley and Jane Brusilovsky respectively — in full drag and bio drag (when a female dresses in the style of male drag queens).
The show was packed with seven stunning student acts. Ivana Kick-Ass kicked the show into gear with a classic Britney performance.
After, Brendick Queerie, a handsome king, took to the stage. Pride Ann Prejudith (as a fiery Kim Possible) closed her performance with a co-starring CPR dummy in a comedic performance of “I Need a Hero.” Gerard Slay slayed the stage in an angsty avant garde piece dressed as androgynous royalty. Daniela Gordita Crunch crushed some impressive moves as a darling K-Pop princess. Agni Paradise was truly the “hottest thing in heaven and hell” as she took on Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy”, and Miss Anne Thropy closed the show in a fantastically dramatic portrayal of Eartha Kitt in “I Want to Be Evil.” Originally oSTEM had arranged for local queen Brooklyn Heights to be the final act. Sadly Brooklyn had to cancel due to a family emergency, but oSTEM didn’t miss a beat, and the whole cast sent the audience off with one final rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
The successful night was almost a year in the making. In addition to the traditional tasks that come with putting on a production, oSTEM held drag workshops for the performers. In an interview with one of the workshop leaders, Haley spoke to what it was like working with first-time drag performers.
“People change when they get in drag. It’s really rewarding to see people bring out a whole new side to themselves,” he said.
It was clear from the final product that a lot of time and effort had gone into these performances. From the fashion, to the makeup, to the dancing, each performer seemed to completely live up to their drag name. The night was pure fun, the performers lip syncing their hearts out and the audience members waving tip after tip in the air.
Beyond the performance, Drag Them was also a charity event. At the door, oSTEM collected clothing to start a gender expression closet at Hopkins, the first of its kind on campus. The gender expression closet will be a resource for students to explore their identity in a free and safe place.
“Even with preparing for this show, it’s scary shopping for clothes that aren’t typical for your sex,” Haley said. “The closet will be a space where you can go try clothes and you can see yourself the way you want to be seen in a safe place where you know that nobody is going to walk in on you, and everyone who’s there is there to support you.”
Even though a drag show is first and foremost a good time, drag always brings with it important discussions on gender expression.
“Drag is a safe space, and it’s a very political act. Drag bucks the norms of society on gender in the strongest way possible,” Haley said.
Without a doubt the beautiful and brave performers at Drag Them brought the issues of gender expression into the light by stepping into the spotlight see themselves. “We wanted to raise visibility and awareness for queer people on campus, especially non cisgender people,” Brusilovsky said. “Drag can be a way to make people feel more comfortable with those ideas. It breaks down those edges of gender.”
While I would hardly say that there is atmosphere of homophobia on our campus, our community still has a ways to go in terms of recognizing and supporting LGBTQ groups. There’s a difference between tolerating change and participating in it.
Going to a drag show can be an easy first step in actively recognizing LGBTQ groups and supporting their issues. It’s as simple as being in the audience just to hear oSTEM when they say “We are here and we will be seen,” through drag.
I’m surprised that it’s taken this long for a drag show to reach Homewood Campus. Drag is such an accessible way for people to get involved with the LGBTQ community. Leaving aside the political aspects, drag at its core is a fun, rowdy, audience-involved performance.
As Haley said, “Drag is art. Drag can be great even if it wasn’t drag. It’s this total performance art.”
For people who haven’t had as much exposure to the LGBTQ community, attending a drag show and tipping a favorite performer can be a stepping stone to learning more about the LGBTQ community.
Even for people who consider themselves well versed in the drag world (those of us who have binged all 10 seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race) can learn something by attending “Drag Them.”
“For Drag Race fans or people who have seen clips of it, we wanted them to get a fuller picture of drag,” Brusilovsky said.
The members of oSTEM made a clear point to have a diverse program, a balanced variety of kings, queens and even one member of androgynous royalty.
This diversity was even clear in their choice of music, which wasn’t all pop — and wasn’t even all western — Daniela Gordita Crunch, for example, danced to two K-Pop songs. “Drag Them” really achieved a representative introduction to drag, not just the sassy queens and Britney lookalikes we get on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“Drag Them” was truly a night for everyone. First for the performers who had the audience out of breath (and out of tipping cash). Second for the LGBTQ community, whose voices could be heard through the lip-synced lyrics of Lady Gaga. And of course, for the audience, who hopefully had fun and learned something about drag or gender expression in the process.
If you sit down with an open heart and an open mind, anyone can have fun at a drag show. Afterall, it’s merely a celebration of people living in their skin, being beautiful and bold.
Even with drag getting trendy, I can imagine it took a great amount of courage to put on this production. I’m so excited to return next year and see the oSTEM kings and queens again.