Don’t be a drag

By Kathleen Mackey

Originally published 9/20/18

In a world where, sometimes, everything feels like it’s moving backwards, it’s refreshing to see progress being made, even in the simplest of ways. At a small, Jesuit Catholic school like John Carroll, we should always strive to embrace opportunities to debunk misconceptions and promote open-minded ways of thinking.

The annual Drag Show, hosted by Allies, a campus organization that seeks to focus on LGBTQIA+ issues, is a perfect way to accomplish just that. Yet it has continuously sparked uproar and, once again, I find myself wondering why it still provokes such a negative reaction among parts of the student body.

To me, the argument that a drag performance doesn’t belong at a Jesuit Catholic institution, like ours, is a claim I don’t even feel is worth giving attention to. But apparently, it needs to be done.

I could break down why I feel that featuring drag queens on campus doesn’t need to clash with Catholic morals. However, the refutation of this ideology lies within both the vision of Student Affairs and the very statement of the Catholic and Jesuit Identity of John Carroll University itself.

The most recent Student Affairs Annual Report states in its vision, which is informed by the Jesuit Catholic mission, that the Division of Student Affairs is “committed to helping develop students and the campus community by collaborating with others to foster a vibrant, engaged, diverse, and inclusive learning community outside the classroom,” as well as “challenging students to act with integrity and compassion and reflect on the implications of their actions on individual, communal and global scales.”

Allies’ Drag Show and their organization as a whole perfectly encompass the ideals of broadening diversity on campus and opening our minds to acceptance of things that feel unnatural or different to some. To censor this form of expression and the attempt to promote diversity and inclusion would be straying from the values our school proudly stands by.

Furthermore, the University’s statement on our Catholic and Jesuit identity expresses that John Carroll’s Catholic character “dwells within all human knowledge and wisdom, within all human technology and professional skill, and within all artistic creation and human compassion.”

But if that’s not convincing enough, let me pose a simple question for those who feel that a two-hour long drag performance will brainwash the pure and wholesome minds of our student body: Have you ever attended a drag show? I’m guessing the answer is no, and that’s ok. Allow me to share my experience.

The first drag show I ever attended just happened to be last year’s annual show on campus. I went on a whim with my friends, and the environment felt extremely positive and welcoming. It was a confetti-filled spectacle that made me forget I was in Dolan Science Center. But most importantly, it was touching and inspiring to see a group of students put together an event with the sole purpose of creating a night of entertainment that cultivated a feeling of acceptance, safety and inclusivity.

It fostered a sense of community that bonded together a group, just like any other form of entertainment, such as something like, dare I say it, football. The inexplicable connection you feel when you’re at a game on the edge of seat, cheering on your favorite team next to strangers you’ve never met is no different than the connection you feel when your favorite drag queen walks on stage and lip syncs to your favorite Lady Gaga anthem. Polar opposite environments, sure, but at their core, they make people feel like they’re at home and that they belong. Everyone deserves that feeling.

At the end of the day, the culture of drag over the past several decades has made a profound impact on advancements of modern-day LGBTQIA+ movements and the realm of pop culture. And whether you like it or not, it’s not going anywhere. If we’re too afraid to welcome that culture to our campus and student body, we’ll just continue to be trapped in the closed-minded mentality that has delayed our world’s progress for too long.

Drag isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. But if you take a second to walk in someone else’s shoes — or perhaps a pair of 10-inch, gem-encrusted platform heels — you might be able to look at it with a more positive outlook and realize that it’s not as morally threatening as you think. Our small campus may just be the size of two quads, but there’s plenty of room for everyone to coexist here.