Texas students rally to protest canceled drag show with gay pride flags and pro-drag signs
Protests continued Wednesday at a University of Texas Panhandle after the school’s president said a planned on-campus drag show would not be allowed and opined that such events “discriminate against femininity. “.
Dozens of students gathered for the protests for a second day at West Texas A&M University, located in Canyon, just south of Amarillo. Students waved gay pride flags and held signs that included the sayings “Women for Drag”, “Drag is Rad” and “Everybody Say Love”.
In an op-ed on Tuesday laden with religious references, university president Walter Wendler wrote that “drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, regardless of the stated intent.” He also wrote that “drag shows stereotypical women in cartoonish extremes for the amusement of others”.
In recent months, drag shows across the country have been targeted by right-wing activists and politicians, with Republican lawmakers in several states, including Texas, proposing curbs on the shows. And events like drag story hours, where drag queens read books to children, have drawn protesters.
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WT Spectrum, a student organization for LGBTQIA students and allies, was recruiting participants for the March 31 drag show to raise money for The Trevor Project, a group that works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth.
In an Instagram post, WT Spectrum wrote that drag is not meant to be offensive, adding that it’s a celebration of many things including “gay, gender, acceptance, love and especially femininity”. The band demanded Wendler reinstate the show, apologize, and resign from his post.
The band said in an Instagram post on Wednesday that they still hope to hold the show on March 31, but don’t yet know where it will be held. The group said it was speaking with supporters and venues in the area.
Students supporting the show included Signe Elder, who called the drag “about self-expression and joy”. She told KFDA TV: “I think if you don’t like flirting, you don’t have to come to the show.”
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Other students said they agreed with Wendler’s position. Alejandro Rivera told KAMR TV that as a Christian he doesn’t hate anyone but thinks if the show had been allowed “we would see our society become almost like degenerate”.
Rachel Hill, director of government affairs at Equality Texas, said “drag has always been a way for people who don’t fit easily into the gender binary to embrace different sides of themselves. femininity comes in all shapes and sizes and it’s what we do. It’s what makes drag so powerful.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE, a national civil liberties group, wrote in a letter to Wendler that “drag shows, like other forms of theatrical performance, are expressive conduct at ‘shelter from government censorship’.
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In his column, Wendler also compared drag shows to someone performing in blackface, saying he wouldn’t support performances by people in blackface either. Blackface dates back to the 1800s, when white men darkened their faces to create caricatures of black people.
“I will not seem to condone the belittlement of one group at the expense of sassy gestures toward another group for any reason, even when the law of the land seems to require it,” Wendler wrote, noting that he recommended supporting the Trevor. Project.
University spokeswoman Kelly Carper Polden said Wednesday they could not comment “due to ongoing litigation.” She did not immediately respond to a question about who might take legal action.