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Drag show to be held for first time since fall 2019

Students dance on stage of Grinnell’s annual drag show during the fall of 2019. Photo by Isabel Torrence.

After an extended break due to the pandemic, Grinnell’s spring Drag Show will be hosted by Queer People of Color (QPOC) for the first time in over two years. For 15 years, the show has allowed the Grinnell community to gather and celebrate queer people, explore creative self-expression and push the boundaries of gender and sexuality. This event has not occurred since the fall of 2019 and this spring it is returning with renewed energy, unprecedented funding and a new closet. The show will be held in the Harris Center on April 23 at 7 p.m.

“Drag is very radical, and that we get to have something as a group and put that shine on our group and queer people of color in general is very affirming,” said QPOC organizer Lizzi Kelly `23.

This year’s theme is dreamy/ethereal, and QPOC has a whole new drag closet to work with. After two years of not being used, the former drag closet was in poor shape, and many items were outdated or damaged. This year, with funding from the Office of Intercultural Affairs and support from SRC Assistant Director and LGBTQIA+ Student Specialist Robby Specht, the drag closet has been restocked and updated.

“We haven’t really seen the closet utilized, I think, in the way that it was designed, just because the SRC [Stonewall Resource Center] was closed, but you’re supposed to be able to go in and find clothing that you might like or if you are presenting in like a different way and haven’t been able to facilitate that before,” said QPOC organizer Gabby Gordon `22. “It’s supposed to provide additional comfort for your expression.”

According to Shabana Gupta `22, the drag show is a can’t-miss event for Grinnell students. “They need to experience it. It might help them figure out stuff about their own sexuality and gender or biases, because that’s a big thing to figure out if you’re uncomfortable in that space, and then analyzing why you’re uncomfortable,” ze said.

For most of campus, this will be their first Drag Show at Grinnell, and for many individuals, this will be their first drag show ever. At drag shows, it is common to give cash tips to the performers to support queer individuals and organizations. Cash tips at the QPOC drag show are donated to a foundation of the group’s choice and will be announced at the show.

“Collecting the money while you’re a performer is fun because you get to like, people will come up and be like, come get it [the tip], you know, like incorporate into your performance,” said Gordon. “It makes it a fun audience interaction.”

Each year QPOC begins the show with an introduction walk, where the members of the group do a small performance with light choreography. After that, there are around 12 individual or group performances that are created, costumed, and choreographed by the performers themselves. In the fall, there is a tradition to invite first-time drag attendees on stage for the “virgin walk,” which will happen this year at the upcoming show. It is traditions like these that are at risk after a two-year hiatus.

“If those traditions don’t get passed on by doing this [the show], then the people who come after us might miss out on something,” Gupta said.

Gupta also has concerns about the future organization of the event. “The way of setting up Drag Show, so the process of who do you talk to in administration, how do you set up Harris, how you do theme planning, how you order all the items, might get lost,” added Gupta.

QPOC experienced challenges while attempting to plan and schedule a drag show for the fall, and it ended up being canceled due to a change in the process for event approval. This semester, with the help of Specht and not needing to go through SGA for funding, the process has been much smoother.

“That’s been kind of a game changer because we can get nice stuff and better decorations and we have more support in it than we’ve ever had,” said Kelly. “Usually, it’s kind of like, everybody loves [the show], but our needs get kind of overlooked.”

The drag show is a chance for performers to experiment with gender and perform sexuality. Gupta is striving to get out of zer comfort zone with zer performance and “blur lines between masc and femme.”

“Fucking with gender is the hottest thing you can do,” said Gupta. “And so, I want everyone to experience that.”

QPOC invites everyone to join them in bringing drag back to Grinnell. Come ready to support both the performers and the organizations and enjoy a night of queer beauty and creativity.

Editor’s note: Shabana Gupta is the S&B Visual Editor. Ze did not contribute to the writing or editing of this article. 

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