Saturday night, the LaSells Stewart Center at Oregon State University hosted a drag show in which about 10 performers cross-dressed, danced and made adult-themed jokes.
The event took place a little more than 16 hours before when an anti-gay hate group, the Westboro Baptist Church, said that they would be at the same location, protesting at the funeral of Army Ranger Cody Patterson.
The church members ultimately did not show up to protest. Instead about 2,000 people lined up outside the center to show their support for Patterson’s family.
Lucielle S. Balls, the host of the show, said she was glad that the drag show happened before when the group said they would be on campus.
“I think that having the drag show before the (potential) WBC protest was a serendipitous occasion that allowed for community members to strengthen themselves against the corrosive hatred the WBC preaches,” she said.
The fall Drag Show is organized by Rainbow Continuum student group as a part of Queer History Month. The group also organizes a drag show in the spring.
Balls said the community has embraced the event because it preaches the gospel of love.
“This show is also a collaboration of many people on campus, and so by virtue of the connections we all have, the community around the show is amazing,” she said.
Balls said drag has played an important role in queer culture for the past 100 years, and drag kings and queens have often been community organizers.
“Drag performers naturally draw crowds and have a voice that can and will be heard. Because of this, drag performers have often been the voices for queer movements,” she said.
Stina Goetter, co-president of the Rainbow Continuum, said the event is an expression of gender, identity and sexuality, and is fun for participants and the audience.
“The drag show is a tradition in queer culture,” she said.
Goetter, a junior majoring in math, said the events sold out the 440 seat Memorial Union Ballroom so they moved it to LaSells Stewart Center this year because it has a larger seating capacity. According to Goetter, the organizers had sold more than 500 tickets in advance.
“I think the community is very supportive (of the shows),” she said. “We don’t get angry emails afterwards.”
Goetter said she was aware of the Westboro Baptist Church’s threats to protest.
“I think events like this are what combat that,” she said. “This is a beautiful display of culture, and it’s in direct juxtaposition to that.”
Shessly Zamora, a double major in Spanish and business in her fourth year at OSU, attended the drag show Saturday night.
She said she has been to several drag shows, her first in her freshman year.
“It was a really awesome experience,” she said.
Zamora said she likes the atmosphere and humor at the shows.
“It’s exciting to see them do something so important to the LGBQT community,” she said.
She said events such as this can also be a good way to open people’s eyes.
“I recommend this to anyone who wants to have a good time,” she said.
The OSU Pride Center has more information about Queer History Month and upcoming events http://oregonstate.edu/pridecenter/home.