Joseph Cotton is a sophomore Philosophy, Politics and the Public major. He is a staff writer for the Newswire from Dearborn, Mich.
On Jan. 31, the Student Activities Council (SAC) held a drag show as a part of a Muskies After Dark (MAD) event. This move was a slap in the face to the LGBT+ community on campus. Here’s why:
As I have gone through my time at Xavier University, I have met people who are more interesting and diverse than I could have ever imagined. I have had several culturally enriching experiences and chief among them was the second annual Drag Show event that the Xavier LGBT+ Alliance put on last fall. I learned a lot about drag culture and its role in fighting discrimination the community has faced throughout history. It really was like stepping into a new world that I had no idea existed.
However, after the show, I learned about some of the barriers that Alliance executives had to deal with when they were planning the drag show.
2017 was actually the first time that Alliance was allowed to put on a drag show event despite asking the administration to do so for years. Also, the event for 2019 was actually moved from the basement of Gallagher to the Arrupe Overlook so that people could “opt-out” if they wanted to.
When SAC recently put on their show, they put on a grotesque McDonald’s version.
SAC failed to compensate the performer of the show for their time at fair market value as drag queens are paid mostly through tips. At Alliance’s show, the executives worked very hard to educate anybody who came to the event on how to properly tip, whereas SAC failed to do so. The tips from Alliances show were actually donated to the Lighthouse Youth Services, but the performers understood that they were performing at a fundraiser and not a random college event.
The concept of having a drag show doesn’t even make sense given the context of the event’s roaring ’20s theme. If they did their homework, they would have realized that drag culture started to take shape in the 1960s.
I suspect that they were eventually told this but couldn’t be bothered to change course once they decided on it. Calling it a drag show in the first place is inaccurate. There were only two performers at the event, which rarely happens in the real world of drag.
Instead of using their privilege to uplift the LGBT+ groups and people on campus, SAC decided to appropriate queer culture for their own gain. By stealing a lifeless version of a historically significant form of artistic expression, they essentially used the LBGT+ community as a prop in their quest to seem relevant and progressive.
There were also a lot of oppressive power dynamics in play in this situation. SAC was never asked to allow people to be able to “opt-out” of their drag show whereas Alliance was. I can only assume this is because the administration didn’t want too much ‘gay stuff’ happening in Gallagher because MAD events also take up all of the space in Gallagher.
I also doubt that SAC engaged as meaningfully as they should have with Alliance to make sure that they were respecting the performers, the culture or the people on campus at any point.
I would ask you all to boycott all SAC events. I know it’s unrealistic, so if nothing else, I just want it to be known that on Jan. 31, 2020, the Student Activities Council put on an event that put others down for their own gain.