Drag draws enthusiastic crowd

Last week, Wilfrid Laurier University celebrated Trans Awareness Week, a global event to increase awareness of those whose gender does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.

Numerous events were put on by the Laurier Rainbow Centre, meant to increase students’ knowledge of what it means to be trans, teach different terminologies and ask what gender really means.

The week ended with a vigil at the Waterloo public square for victims of transphobia.

“Everybody talks about homophobia,” explained Chris Owen, the literature and resources co-ordinator for the Rainbow Centre. “Everybody knows it’s bad. Very few people know that transphobia exists.”

According to the Trevor Project, a 24-hour confidential suicide hot- line for gay and questioning youth, transgender people represent 31 per cent of all suicides and over 50 per cent of those who identify as trans- gendered will have made at least one suicide attempt by age 20.

“It’s absolutely horrific,” remarked Owen. “And no one really talks about it.”

Owen and the Rainbow Centre co-ordinators opted for a week full of interactive events to further involve students. “We decided that we needed an event that brought a lot of people in and then use that event to
our advantage.”

Pamphlets were distributed, an information session was held in the Mac House lounge and a “drag race” to introduce people to the experience of drag took place in the Concourse.

The week included education as well as entertainment, as on Nov. 19, the group co-ordinated the university’s first ever drag show, which took place at Wilf’s.

According to Owen, Wilf’s was over-capacity for the event.

At the show, drag kings and queens took to the stage for lip-sync and dance performances.

Between acts, hosts Diva Divine and Parker South provided jokes, anecdotes and education to the audience.

One of their main focuses was on proper trans-vocabulary — including the difference between a drag queen and a trans-person.

“Just because I am wearing this lovely, lovely frock does not mean that I am transgender or transexual,” Divine explained to the audience. “Drag is different from transexual or transgender. Drag is about fun.”

“I don’t identify as a boy or as a girl,” Divine expressed. “I just identify as myself.”

One of the highlights of the show was an appearance by Kitchener’s Club Renaissance veteran Miss Drew. Miss Drew, real name Bradley Hamacher, has been performing for 15 years.

“One of the best feelings is … when someone comes in and they’re having a bad night and they have a smile on their face while you’re on stage,” Hamacher said.

Miss Drew’s final performance of the night was an emotional lip- sync number to Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”, in which he removed all elements of his costume and revealed himself to the audience as Bradley. Many audience members were brought to tears by the performance.

Hamacher, who said he en- joys performing in “straight”
establishments, loves to shock his audience. “There were a lot of people [at Wilf’s] that had never seen a drag show before … I took about twenty-five pictures with people. Everybody was just like, ‘Wow, that’s so cool, that’s so cool.’” He said he looks forward to performing as Miss Drew in future shows at Laurier.

Diva Divine, 28, has been per- forming for nearly 10 years. “My favourite thing about it, aside from the makeup, is that I can say things and I can do things … that I normally can’t say when I’m a man.”

Divine said that she can only re- call one incident where she felt misunderstood by others. “One time, I had my makeup done and I had decided that I just wanted to go to school as a man,” she said. “Three or four football players were saying, ‘I didn’t know that they allowed the freaks out during the day.’”

Fortunately, Divine explained, this was her only firsthand experience with transphobia. “I’ve had friends who have experienced it,” she said, “And my response to it is that you should come back with love.”

Owen offered some advice to those experiencing abuse or confusion related to their gender. “Gender is just one aspect of who you are,” he concluded.