Texas university president cancels student drag show
The president of a western Texas university has canceled a charity drag show organized by students, arguing that drag performances are misogynistic and comparing them to blackface.
“Does a drag show preserve a single thread of human dignity? I think not,” West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) President Walter Wendler wrote this week in an email to students, faculty and staff that came with the subject line “A Harmless Drag Show? No Such Thing.”
“West Texas A&M University will not host a drag show on campus,” Wendler wrote in the email, referring to the upcoming on-campus “A Fool’s Drag Race,” which was organized by students to raise money for the Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ youth suicide-prevention organization.
In his email, which he also posted to his blog, Wendler said drag shows are offensive to women and pointed to his Christian beliefs to justify canceling the performance.
WTAMU is a public, non-religiously affiliated university.
“As a performance exaggerating aspects of womanhood (sexuality, femininity, gender), drag shows stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood,” Wendler wrote. “Any event which diminishes an individual or group through such representation is wrong.”
The university leader said he would similarly oppose blackface performances at the school, “even if told the performance is a form of free speech or intended as humor.”
Wendler’s move is the latest in a series of recent actions taken against drag performances by conservative state and local leaders, and even Republicans in Congress.
Tennessee last month became the first state in the nation to pass a law restricting drag shows and performers.
At least 40 similar measures have been introduced in more than a dozen states, including Texas, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Outside of the legislature, drag events are being increasingly targeted by right-wing extremist groups who say the performances are sexually explicit by nature.
A drag queen story time for children in northern Ohio this month devolved into chaos after hundreds of demonstrators affiliated with the Proud Boys and the Patriot Front descended on the event with swastika flags and pepper spray.
On Tuesday, WTAMU students said they planned to hold the charity drag event as scheduled, with or without Wendler’s support.
“We, the students of WTAMU, hope to bring this issue to Dr. Wendler’s attention and urge him to reinstate the drag show on-campus,” reads a petition that as of Wednesday afternoon had amassed close to 8,000 signatures. “We are holding this drag show whether we have his support or not, but his extreme lack of compassion for the LGBT+ and activist student population on campus shows with this latest e-mail.”
Neither Wendler nor the university has issued a statement acknowledging the student body’s response. A representative for WTAMU declined to comment, citing “pending litigation.”
Student-led protests will be taking place on WTAMU’s campus through Friday, according to a petition update posted Wednesday.
“We will not let our voices die out,” K Klein, the petition’s organizer, wrote Wednesday in the update. “The show must go on.”
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