To the happily single, looking for love or coupled up, Valentine’s Day is changing things up this year. The day devoted to love will be celebrated at Case Western Reserve University with the 11th annual Drag Ball, hosted by Spectrum, promoting love as a universal concept and desire that spans all genders, races, cultures and sexual orientation.
Spectrum, the organization for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender advocacy on campus, has existed at CWRU before there was an LGBT center. It has always strived to provide a safe and comforting environment for the gay community according to former Spectrum president and current secretary, Rya Lally. Lally says that this year’s Drag Ball falling on Valentine’s Day is a complete coincidence. However, it allows those in attendance to push the boundaries on what a typical Valentine’s Day usually entails by having a CWRU spin-off of the show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Valentine’s Day is typecast as a day full of couples who obliviously walk around happy to be together while singles seem to inevitably feel less about themselves, simply for being single. This is normally a minute detail on any other day of the year. So, before committing yourself to a quart of Mitchell’s ice-cream, head over to Thwing and catch a variety of acts that will turn your meager plans into something completely different.
The event will include lip-syncing performances done in drag, as well as some cameo appearances from student a cappella groups who also may or may not be in drag, as rumored by Lally. The drag show will be a contest, modeled after “Rupaul’s Drag Race,” and will include a strut competition where random audience members must show off their best runway walk. For all female readers who have had to sport painful heels for hours on end… Well, these random participants will also be sporting heels during their struts down the catwalk, and they might be male.
There have been a few difficulties in putting this event together. Both Lally and Spectrum member Lizzy Benway spoke about how difficult it has been to get performers to come out for the event.
Although many seem excited about it, Benway says, “People are afraid to perform because they feel they must be extremely prepared and talented,” to which she combats that the event is simply about embracing acceptance and having fun.
Lally also agreed that finding performers has been taxing on Spectrum. However, she reasons that it may have been in part that, “Straight allies are discouraged because they grew up thinking that wearing girl clothes was the worst thing a boy could do.” Both representatives of Spectrum encourage people to push back their fears of embarrassment or judgment because the entire event is centered around the ability people have to break social norms while still being accepted, respected and loved as a crucial member of society.
Although CWRU is a welcoming community according to Spectrum, students must remember that LGBT advocacy is still a major issue on a larger, national scale. Going to a Spectrum event, such as Drag Ball, encourages attendees to step back and view the bigger picture.
Lally recognizes that many allies of the LGBT community know about recent victories legalizing gay marriage in many states, but allies should notice that the quest for equality is far from over. By attending Drag Ball, students and faculty members alike can increase their understanding of not only the culture of drag, but also the issues that still loom over the LGBT community. Some continuing issues Lally mentions include, but are not limited to, “transgender rights and acceptance of non-gender-conforming gays, lesbians and bisexuals.”
Don’t let Valentine’s Day be a drag… Or actually, let it. Embrace drag style on Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. in the Thwing Ballroom. The event is free, and the only money necessary is if the audience wants to vote on their favorite drag queen of the night. All proceeds will go to the Cleveland LGBT Center. So, ask your neighbor to borrow his or her fishnet tights, stiletto pumps and best shade of red lipstick. All love is encouraged—you may even find your own Valentine.