History of Drag Shows on Campus

Ai-Chin Chen, Class of 2018

Dear Editor(s),
With regards to the utmost issue at hand – removal of drag shows by university policy – I would like to point attention to university history under clerical presidency about the issue. Before former university president Fr. Robert Niehoff implemented protection for faculty and staff of LGBTQIA+ under Title IX in February 2010, and way before the controversy of drag shows against university core values in 2009, you will find that archived copies of The Carroll News, The Carillon, and the Carroll Collective, feature drag shows without any sort of threat to Catholic identity and mission.
Other history to note shows that an LGBTQ+ center is proposed in 2010, but never actually forms. Months later, an anonymous writer sends homophobic letters around the university and then-Academic Vice President and University Provost Jeanne Colleran refutes the writer for insensitive and untrue information attacking students and staff on the topic. In 2013, Allies re-established the annual drag show on campus; the educational values, not so much entertainment and/or intrinsic values, would fulfill university policy.
As a former research intern for the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, I came across The Ignatian Imperative by Andrew J. Thon, S.J., from my studies two years ago. In Chapter 5 “Creative Tensions between Student Affairs and Catholic Identity,” it is noted that “Tensions with the institution’s Catholic identity will continue to surface and be part of Catholic, campus life. These tensions provide opportunities for respectful discussions, appreciating different perspectives, greater understanding of Catholic tradition, and responding in creative and educational ways” (Thon 46).
As a Gentile who chooses to live by Biblical doctrine separate from the Catholic Church, I am ashamed that the community has failed its own people by not having open community discussions and historical reflection on this issue.
And one last note: through the course of understanding drag shows from a neutral perspective, transphobia cannot apply effectively when cisgendered homosexual maleschoose to act as drag queens – and some cisgendered heterosexual females also choose to act as drag queens – and if we cannot identify who is cisgendered or not, there cannot be transphobia.
Ai-Chin Chen