Transphobic Tornado Fails to ruin Drag Show

Hundreds of students braved the severe weather to attend or perform at last Saturday’s Drag Show 2.0. The show marked the end of Sejan Miah’s ’12 time as co-leader of Grinnell’s Queer People of Color (QPOC) and the passing of the flaming torch to the newly appointed co-leaders, Javon Garcia ’14, Keilah Cortenay ’13, and Seantasia Lee ’13. Despite a tornado warning that threatened to stop the show, Miah had only positive things to say about this year’s drag and the seniors that performed for one last time.

“I was so mad that the thunderstorm was trying to steal my thunder,” Miah remarked. “But I thought it was very, very emotional.”

Miah was one of many return performers for whom Drag Show is a defining memory of Grinnell.

“We have a lot of senior divas who have been doing this since freshman year. Jared, Christian and I—we have been doing this all four years, and it was a testament to how much we have grown as individuals and performers. Our performances really encapsulate everything we have learned at Grinnell.”

QPOC allowed Miah to find his place on campus.

“I tend to be perceived as this bitch from New York City who hates people, whereas I just don’t really care,” said Miah. “I’m not from the midwest, I’m not always friendly to everyone. I just like doing my own thing and not being bothered. QPOC was an organization where I could show aspects of my personality and be respected. I wanted to display that in terms of performance art, and I could show my New York side, my Bengali side, and bring everything together and let the school be a part of me that wouldn’t necessarily be twisted or manipulated out of hand. It’s just, ‘This is Sejan doing what he likes to do.’ And for me it was just a safe space of artistic expression where we can have people think about gender.”

QPOC, which meets weekly in the Stonewall Resource Center, aims to address issues of racial, ethnic and economic inequity within the queer establishment. As part of pride week this year, QPOC was instrumental in bringing Esera Tuaolo, retired NFL player and gay rights activist. As one of his last acts as QPOC co-leader, Miah served as the master of ceremonies of Drag 2.0, which earned close to $500 for the Iowa Pride Network.

Elliot Karl ‘12, one of the drag show divas, served as an announcer in the show. For Drag, Elliot donned the visage of his drag personality, Deborah, complete with heels, red lipstick and the classic little black dress. During his time on stage, Karl commented on the purpose of drag as a political act. In a later interview Karl explained what he meant by his comments.

“The act of adorning clothing, non-gender normative clothing, and in some cases performing a gender that you yourself do not identify as, it has been used in a variety of historical and cultural contexts in a way that’s both supposed to be fun, and there is a lot of community that’s built around doing drag, but it’s also political in that it challenges essentialist notions of gender by highlighting how all individuals or any individual can do, perform, be a gender, can perform a variety of different styles of gender. If I, in what I present as a man, can strut in heels better than most women I know, what does that means for a stable assumption of traditional womanhood?”