‘It Felt Like Freedom’: Celebrating Identity through Drag

By JOHN VAALER

On the brisk night of Saturday, Jan. 26, the Middlebury Queers and Allies Organization hosted the college’s first drag show of 2019 at Crossroads Cafe in the McCullough Student Center.  The show, which ran from 10 to 11 p.m., offered seven performances. The crowd of about 100 students was uproarious in its support:

“To see someone in front of a room of people who they might not know perform drag and feel empowered, that was my moment.  I thought, ‘I’m here, and I’m allowed to be who I am,’” audience member Hannah Deering ’22 said. 

Before the show began, an organizer of the event reminded students at Crossroads to be mindful of performers’ privacy and not to film or photograph the show. “Be respectful, be a good audience,” the spokesperson said.  

Then a cover of “Let Me Love You” by DJ Snake started playing. Drag was afoot. 

The first performer, clad in black heels and a rainbow-colored pride ribbon, danced across the stage, giving the occasional shimmy. After five minutes, the drag artist bowed and Crossroads boomed with applause. Six more performances were received with equal warmth.  

“I was so impressed with the raw emotion that was felt on stage … I felt like every performer put their heart and soul into every performance,” spectator Lucy Townend ’22 said.  

One performer could not have agreed more. 

“Dressing up and going to parties and taking photos [in drag] has been a great experience …  I can express myself in ways that I normally feel [are] socially policed,” said drag artist Lee Garcia Jimenez ’19.5, whose drag name is Veronica. “Drag is really hot right now!”

The second act was “Miss Information,” who, in a blond wig and flowing pink dress, danced with chutzpah.  Soon after, Christian Kummer ’22 and Regina Fontanelli ’22 performed the night’s first duet, a jumpy and energetic couplet to “Toxic” by Britney Spears.  

“Doing moves that were more raunchy or sexy really got the crowd going,” Kummer said. “I was playing up my femininity … whatever that is.”

Kummer, a Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies major who tried out drag for his first time that night, highlighted drag’s importance for eroding gender stereotypes and roles: “You either dress masculine or feminine. The way you stand, how you walk … these are so ingrained in our culture.” 

His major was one of the reasons he tried drag: “[Being a Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies major] encouraged me to expose myself to things that have opened up my eyes.”

Following Kummer was the night’s fourth act — a slow and subtle sashay to “Mama’s Broken Heart” by Miranda Lambert. Tights were worn; eyebrows, peeled; layers, discarded.

After a brave (and bawdy) fifth performance, Garcia Jimenez came out with his drag partner, whose stage name is “Mickey D.”  In a bold move, the two artists made the sign of the cross during a duet to Madonna’s “Like A Woman” and Ariana Grande’s “God Is A Woman.”  After the divine imagery, Garcia Jimenez distributed Ritz crackers to the audience, giving a drag twist to the Eucharist. 

Garcia Jimenez explained the Christian imagery in his act: “Growing up Catholic, a lot of people use Christian rhetoric to villainize the trans experience or to name it as something immoral or unnatural, despite the fact that transgender identity isn’t even referred to in the Bible and despite the fact that many of the people who argue those things don’t even understand what being trans is.”  

When asked if his performance minimized or made fun of Catholicism, Garcia Jimenez objected. 

“I think people with bad opinions would find [my performance] in bad taste. I grew up Catholic, so it’s my tradition that I’m reclaiming.  [I was] not being oppressive, but rather celebratory,” he said.

Alex Bacchus ’21 finished off the night with the seventh drag performance. Bacchus, who is the 

social media chair of Middlebury Queers and Allies, was impressed with the night’s turnout, and also acclaimed how accepting the audience was of the drag show: “The [Middlebury] campus loved it.”  

Bacchus, an organizer of the event, was also enthusiastic on how the the drag show could help educate non-LGBTQ+ students at Middlebury about the queer and trans tradition. “Drag should be performed by all identities, but there should be limitations on drag too,” Bacchus said.  

Garcia Jimenez elaborated on this view: “If too many heterosexual and cisgender people do [drag], drag becomes indistinguishable from burlesque. That would be sad.”

The evening ended joyfully, with cheers from the audience concluding the show. As Deering left the McCullough Student Center and walked through the cold night air, she was ecstatic: 

“It felt like freedom,” Deering said.

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