At a dance, you often feel bass rather than hear it. On Saturday night, in the middle of the SUB Ballroom, colored lights were flashing everywhere, and the bass was shaking the audience’s chests. And on stage? On stage, the night was just beginning — Anita Tatas strode out, dressed in a tight black dress, fishnet stockings and a huge beehive hairdo. And the crowd went wild.
For the uninitiated, a drag show is a unique experience — to say the least. This one began with a bang, and never slowed down. The music was hugely varied — with numbers from “Chicago” to the Weather Girls to Bonnie Tyler. As varied as the music were the costumes. Queens appeared in everything from iridescent floor-length dresses to white tutus; kings were in black fedoras and leather jackets, jeans and baseball caps. Many performers sparkled in the stage lights. Some were in flashy custom clothes, but many performers dressed quite simply. The dances ranged from impromptu numbers involving audience members to highly choreographed dances. One surprise performance stole the audience’s hearts — a king, Ryder Strong, dragged his lady (Natascha Quimby, one of the show organizers) up on stage, and serenaded her with “Just the Way You Are.”
And for many of the performers, it isn’t about what’s done on stage. “I love making people smile and laugh,” said Bozeman queen Electra Sexton. “My personal objective is to make people forget about what’s going on in their own personal life and have fun with the experience.”
The vibes from the crowd were fantastic — cheering and whistles accompanied every performance, and many members of the crowd tipped the performers while they danced. For drag queen Fawn Ovamae, the best part of doing a drag show is the personal benefit. “I love the feeling I get being on stage,” she said. “When the crowd cheers, there is this visceral ‘I did a good job’ moment.”
But the benefits of a show aren’t limited to inside the SUB Ballroom. To raise funds for the event, MSU’s Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) sold t-shirts proclaiming “Love=Love.” Posters advertising the dance were hung all over campus, raising general public awareness. The show raised money for QSA, which in turn provides support and outreach for LGBTQ community members. And as well as simply making QSA more visible, the drag show may even change individual notions about the LGBTQ community. Sonja Benton, one of the event organizers, described bringing “self-identifying straight female friends” to dances, and having them comment on how “hot” the drag kings are. “While this doesn’t change their sexuality, it does make them realize how fluid both gender and sexuality are, which isn’t something that’s found elsewhere very often,” Benton said.
Our society can often condemn things it does not understand. Living in a world governed by traditional values, it can be easy to write off those who are not like “us.” A drag show is a movement against making everyone the same — it is a wild and passionate expression of all of oneself.
When asked what heterosexual students can do to be more supportive, QSA President Alex Paterson said “be an ally … Speak out against statements and jokes that attack LGBTQ people. And most importantly, celebrate the accomplishments and wonders of all LGBTQ students.”
After the last performer, chairs were enthusiastically stacked away, and the floor cleared. The dance began. Under the pulsing rainbow lights, it was occasionally difficult to discern who was what gender. But as the mob of people began to jump and jive, congregating to the center of the floor, one thing slowly became clear — it didn’t matter. Just for a moment, everyone was 100 percent human.