Revolution Charity Drag Show: MSU, QSA celebrate self-love, acceptance

QSA’s ninth Revolution Drag Show was a defiant celebration of self-love, acceptance and freedom.

In one of the most anticipated performances of the night, the drag queen Horse Girl made her debut with a performance of Beyoncé’s “7/11.” About halfway through the song, one of her breasts fell off onto the stage – but Horse Girl and the large, rowdy crowd packed into the SUB Ballrooms took it in stride. Horse Girl and the large, rowdy crowd packed into the SUB Ballrooms took it in stride, and finished the performance, working the audience like a pro. “I was nervous,” Horse Girl said. “But the crowd was so warm. It was incredibly empowering.”

Last Saturday night, April 16, 17 kings and queens dressed in drag (clothing typically associated with one gender role, but worn by a person of another gender) and took to the stage to lip sync, dance and sing in QSA MSU’s ninth Revolution Charity Drag Show. Fake breasts, mustaches and wigs flew around the stage while the audience sang along to favorite songs, enjoyed an open bar by Plonk, cheered until their voices were no more and came up to the stage to tip performers. Over $2,000 was raised for Chicks with Sticks, an organization founded by Shaun Phoenix and her wife, Stormi Oshun, to raise awareness for social justice through music, and to create a supportive environment for “disenfranchised groups in our culture such as women and queers. We want to make a loud, proud and joyful statement about diversity,” Phoenix said.

Beyond philanthropy, entertainment and fun, Alex Paterson, QSA’s president, a.k.a Horse Girl, explained the value of drag shows. “Drag is a form of artistry that really likes to play with gender,” he said. “It likes to accentuate gender or diminish gender. I think that’s really powerful because for a lot of people, their gender identity does not match what the world tells them it should be. So I think drag can be a very liberating performance.”

In many communities, dressing in drag and expressing a gender identity or sexuality that differs from the norm can be dangerous.

In Bozeman and MSU, the transphobia and homophobia that can lead to violence exists in subtle ways. Sonja Benton is an organizer of the Revolution Charity Drag Show and is in their seventh year at MSU. Benton said that the community is much more accepting than when they first arrived. “When I first got here there were still people getting beaten up for being gay. That’s [no longer] happening, which is good, we’ve made progress,” Benton said.  Still, they think Bozeman and MSU are far from where they could be. “There is still a lot of homophobia and transphobia,” Benton said. “It would be really nice to have people feel really safe in their classrooms and on campus, because that’s still not how a lot of people feel, particularly those that are openly, very obviously queer.”

Benton believes that drag shows like the Revolution Charity can act as catalysts in the fight against transphobia and homophobia by forcing people to question binary gender and heterosexual norms. “The reason that I think we do this, is because coming to a drag show makes you question your gender and sexual identity. There’s nothing quite like a drag show to make you really f—cking confused, which I think is a good thing,” Benton said. “It’s important for everyone to recognize that [gender and sexuality] is something that isn’t solid, that it’s an idea that can change and be different. Gender is a social construct, as is sexuality to a certain degree.”

“We’re very appreciative of the support our community is showing us,” Paterson said. “We look forward to throwing even more fabulous, brighter, glittery drag shows in the future.”

Disclaimer: Sonja Benton is a member of the Exponent staff, contributing the the Opinion and Culture sections.