Students at Utah State University, a largely conservative school in Logan, held their first drag show on campus last week to great success. The event featured 10 drag performers, mostly USU students, and according to organizers, nearly 1,200 people filled the ballroom of the campus student center to watch, bringing in hundreds of more chairs and cramming into the standing room at the back.
“Words cannot describe the gratitude that myself and the Residence Life staff have for the support that was given to this event,” wrote organizer Nathon Taylor on the Facebook event page. “Tonight we planned for an audience of 500 and ended with a room full of nearly 1,200 individuals full of passion, excitement, and love for the drag community. Thank you to each and every one of you for coming to this event and making it such a success. It is because of you all that this event was so successful. Here’s to the beginning of another amazing USU tradition!”
The show was developed to provide an open dialogue about drag culture and the LGBTQ community. Performers not only danced and sang but also answered questions about what taking part in the show meant to them.
One performer, Tyler Jones as Anya Bacon, held up a sign during the performance declaring, “We won’t be erased.” It included a drawing of Trump with a red X through his face. The act is as much about politics as it is about gender.
“With how much is happening in the White House and how much he’s doing against our community,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune, “in my own sort of way, this is me fighting back a little bit.”
Following Jones’ performance to Lily Allen’s “F You”, tears of joy erupted — “It was such a moving experience for me,” Jones said. “It’s such a big step for our little rural community.”
Jones attributes RuPaul’s Drag Race to the start of the drag scene in the Logan area. He said it’s been slow to catch on in a community that doesn’t quite understand what the form of self-expression is about.
“It was amazing to perform in front of so many people,” said Neil Betty, who performed as Betty O’. “The energy was electric.”
One mother took to the event’s Facebook page hoping that the show will continue.
“As we were leaving the show tonight, my straight teenage boy said ‘When’s the next one?! That was awesome!’ Thank you for bringing education and acceptance to the valley! #loveislove,” wrote Jennifer Lemon Reeves.