In celebration of LGBT history month, on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, Missouri Western hosted a Drag Show in the Fulkerson Center.
The large room was packed as over 360 people filled dozens of tables and stood along walls to watch the performance. As spotlights lit the runway, several female impersonators took the stage adorned in sky-high stilettos, glimmering gowns and huge hairdos. From the moment one hostess, named Sparkle, grabbed the mic, these drag divas had the full attention of their audience.
“We really aim for everyone to just have a lot of fun,” Sparkle said. “It’s our purpose to make sure our audiences is having a great time. If they’re just sitting there bored, then we’re not doing our job.”
Some numbers were classy, such as a rendition of “Good Morning Baltimore” from the Broadway musical “Hairspray.” But for the majority of the show, the audiences was treated to risque’ performances, some of which involved audience members.
During a Rihanna Medley, Sparkle took on the role of this artist from her bright red hair to her provocative dance moves. At one point Sparkle even came off the stage to dance on a table where several faculty members were seated, including Shannon Meyer and Isaiah Collier.
Throughout the performance, the dancers were able to pull several dollars bills from their corsets given to them by audience members. The entertainers didn’t keep these profits, however. The Center for Multicultural Education invited these performers to the campus to help with a very special project.
“It’s always done to raise awareness about a particular issue within the LGBT community,” said Latoya Fitzpatrick, director of the CME. This year’s donations went toward The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated in providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention to people of the LGBT community and those questioning their sexuality. They target people within the ages of 13 and 25 due to this being a time when many LGBTQ young people are three to four times more likely to end their own lives.
“I think it’s a great idea because LGBT [are more likely] to suffer from a mental illness of some sort,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think a lot of times that’s a population that a lot of people sort of sweep under the rug, because it’s so wrapped around the religious standpoint that people can’t get passed that. They don’t really delve into the actual person. No one deserves to be discriminated against: no one deserves to be killed, or beaten, or anything like that.”
Taylor McGrath, President of the Pride Alliance was glad to see the funds going toward a project that is helping people. The Pride Alliance met with some representatives earlier in the semester and discussed how to handle things like suicide and depression that might come from up; they learned most importantly that they should point those who are struggling to resources like Trevor. “I think it’s an awesome project and foundation for the funds to go to,” said McGrath. “I’m really grateful that they did that.”
“It has a lot to do with bullying especially in high school and middle school,” said McGrath in regards to the mental illness many LGBT youth face. “These kids are different, and they feel different, and other people make them feel different. And so they get picked on, or they feel unincluded, or they feel alone, and that leads to the anxiety and depression.”
McGrath is right; this bullying among young people is a huge dilemma in the LGBTQ community. According the Trevor Project website, each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.
The Trevor Project provides access to 24/7 counseling from trained counselors by calling their lifeline, texting, or online chatting. There is also information available for people who are concerned for LGBT people in their lives.
Another source of counseling available to all Missouri Western students is through the counseling center located in Eder 203. There students can find counselors who specialize in helping people in the LGBTQ community among other things.
“In the event that someone is experiencing anxiety, or depression, or something serious I definitely think that they should go to counseling first because they will know how to help them,” McGrath said. Another support base for LGBT students is within the Pride Alliance.
“We are important as well as a form of community,” McGrath said. “These people feel alone, and when they know there are other [LGBT], asexual- anybody on the spectrum – if they know there are other people out there that are like that they won’t feel so alone.”
While donations were given for such a crucial cause, Missouri Western was able to enjoy an upbeat show filled drag queens in stilettos cartwheeling and falling into splits.
“I was really shocked at how many people came,” McGrath said. “I just didn’t know with how visible LGBT presence was on campus that that many people would show up to a drag show at Missouri Western. But that entire room was full; there were people that were standing because they didn’t have chairs, and that really awed me.”