Academic departments sponsor new drag show after cancellation


Pictured above is drag queen Anhedonia Delight. (Photo courtesy of Nhat Nguyen)

Sophia Maltese, Managing Editor

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community have felt unwelcome and like they’re not truly at home here on campus,” Leah VanDine, Student Government’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, told WKYC on Sept. 6. She said this  in response to the cancellation of the annual JCU drag show, which President Michael Johnson said is not the best way to “promote the expression, appreciation and understanding of the many identities represented at John Carroll University.”

Though the student group LGBTQIA+ Allies was prohibited from hosting it, this past Saturday, Oct. 15, the annual drag show did go on, sponsored by nearly 20 academic departments in conjunction with the LGBTQIA+ Allies group. These departments included English, Communication, Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Art History, Political Science and the Boler College of Business.

Despite the official cancellation, the event looked nearly identical to the previous student-run drag shows. The stage was set up in exactly the same way, the flags representing different gender identities or sexual orientations surrounded the seating area and a spotlight still highlighted the performers when they entered the stage, clothed in elaborate costumes and heavy makeup.

However, differences were evident when students Autumn Franz ‘20 and Justin Spayde ‘21 took the stage and spoke about the process of putting the drag show together.

“When the show was cancelled, we all felt that our one place to show our pride on campus in a celebratory way was taken away. However, by falling back on the very same community that inspired us to create the Zine, we are here tonight,” Franz said.

The Zine, short for magazine, was a publication written in response to an opinion piece published in The Carroll News last year that criticized the drag show and its continuance on campus.

“Despite how many people are against us, and how much resentment may be held, there are countless people that will stand even stronger against the hate and division and stand up for what is right,” Spayde said.

The show, which started at 9 p.m., was heavily educational. It began with a 30-minute presentation on the history and performance impact of drag by a drag queen with a doctorate known as Dr. Lady J, whose birth name is Jeremiah Davenport. Following the presentation were two performance sets, each lasting for one song, from Dr. Lady J and queens Aurora Thunder and Anhedonia Delight. In total, the event had roughly 30 minutes of performances, and 90 minutes of educational material.

Aurora Thunder and Anhedonia Delight, both Carroll alums, spoke between sets. Towards the end of the night, Aurora Thunder revealed that she had been in the seminary prior to becoming involved in drag. She continued to discuss her personal narrative and then opened the floor up for a Q&A.

Though the drag show occurred, it was not the 90-minute performance students had been accustomed to. “It’s kind of sad, actually,” said Celeste Johnson, junior philosophy major. “It means a lot that everyone has come together, but it’s bittersweet because this has always been an Allies event.

“We wanted to show that there were loving and accepting people on campus, even though that might not appear [to be the case] at first glance,” Franz said in response to the op/ed piece published in The Carroll News and the administration’s subsequent action. Administration officials who attended the event included Vice President for Mission and Identity Ed Peck, Vice President of Student Affairs Mark McCarthy, Provost Steve Herbert, along with multiple well known John Carroll faculty and staff members.