History was made on Friday with Goshen College’s first-ever drag show, featuring performances from a local drag queen and students. Earlier that day, Newcomer 19 had been transformed into a colorful drag arena by members of GC’s Advocates club. They prepared the room for the crowd of students and community members that would soon flock to the show with pride flags, rainbow streamers and a stage.Eli Reimer, Advocates leader and MC for the night, greeted the packed crowd before the show began: “Clearly, next time we need to book a much bigger venue.”
The mission of Advocates is to further LGBTQ+ issues and voices in the Goshen College campus and the wider community. River Norton, a member of Advocates, was one of the leaders who put together this event.
“We’re an advocacy group for queer students … tonight we were just trying to celebrate,” they said.
Norton also noted the significance of Goshen’s first drag show: “Just the fact that we were able to have this on a Christian campus is groundbreaking and historic. There’s definitely more stuff that needs to be done but it’s a step in the right direction.”
The art of drag and its embodiment of pride and self-expression aligns perfectly with the purpose of Advocates.
While no one knows exactly when drag was created, it can be traced all the way back to cross-dressing in Shakespeare’s first plays of the 16th century. In the early 1900s, it gained new relevance in its connection with the LGBTQ+ community. Today, drag is mostly expressed by way of gender-bending performances that typically include dance, song and lip-syncing.
Goshen College’s show was no exception to this tradition. Drag queen Mississippi (River Norton) headlined the show with a lip-sync performance of “Rumors” by Lizzo and Cardi B. Following came several student performances, including a powerful rendition of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” by Eden Kuric.
At the end of the night, local drag queen and former GC student Natosha Salad took the stage. While most of the performers were first-time drag queens and kings, Salad was an experienced guest who could show them the ropes. Salad didn’t graduate from Goshen College; they noted that during their time here, they experienced a lot of internalized homophobia.
“When I came here, you couldn’t talk about being gay, you couldn’t talk about being queer,” they said.
Salad says that Goshen’s ability to host a drag show represents a major shift towards acceptance and celebration of queer communities.
“Now I look at GC and the Mennonite church in general and I’m just so happy to see how open they’re becoming and how affirming,” Salad said. “They’re doing the right things to show their allyship … I’m blown away to do drag at Goshen College, but I’m also extremely happy. It means a lot to me.”
Salad noted that, despite all the positive changes in relation to the LQBTQ+ community and drag movements, they have had to learn to stand up in the presence of hate.
“What we do in the queer community… what I’ve learned to do with homophobia, hate and intolerance is to kill them with kindness,” they said. “We don’t give them what they’re looking for.”
Salad saw the campus drag show as an affirmation of celebration as well as a resistance to intolerance and prejudice. Due to its success, it is likely that next year’s show will be welcomed at Goshen College.
Salad said it best at the end of the night: “We have nothing to be ashamed of … we’re not doing anything wrong … now is the time to celebrate our queer identities.”