On Friday, Nov. 22, in honor of Transgender Awareness Month, Mills’ Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Club (TGNC) organized and hosted their first drag show on campus. TGNC organizes events around meaningful causes concerning the transgender and nonbinary communities, such as Transgender Day of Remembrance, and provides a supportive space for transgender and nonbinary Mills students to have discussions and find community with one another.
The event was held in Rothwell Theater from 7:30-10:00 p.m.; candy and carnations were available for purchase throughout the night on a pay-what-you-can basis. All proceeds from the sales were donated to the Oakland LGBTQ Center, which opened in Sept. 2017. The center offers services including a food pantry, a lending library, community support circles, and the services of therapists in private practice.
Performers danced and lip-synched to a wide array of songs, including “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” by Kenny Chesney (performed by Thom Gilbert), Mitski’s “Nobody” (Mel Miguel), “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba (Mars Reilly), “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor (Sunshine Anderson), and the theme song from the television show “The Addams Family” (Helena Smith). Space was also held for walk-in performers at the end of the night; these spontaneous entertainers sang and danced to songs such as Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional,” “New Soul” by Yael Naim, Fergie’s “Fergalicious,” and “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Ray Dalton.
First-year Jordan “Jo” Moses, who opened the show with a routine set to Gary Jules’ “Mad World,” describes her drag persona, Jared, as “a combination of all of the funniest and most repulsive traits of boys [she] knew in high school.” Although Moses is new to drag and felt some performance anxiety before the show, she found it easy to “be in the moment and interact with the audience” once she took the stage.
Audience members engaged enthusiastically with the drag show and responded positively afterward when asked about their experience.
“Let’s just say [the show] was so much fun it knocked more than just my socks off,” First-year Natalie Traub said, winking ostentatiously.
Traub sprained her ankle at the show while dancing to “Out of My Mind” by Panic! at the Disco; however, she claims to “regret nothing” and is expected to make a full recovery.
First-year Sasha Powers agreed with Traub that the show was “very enjoyable” and says that she hopes that even more Mills students will feel inspired to participate in future shows.
The Bay Area has a long and illustrious history of drag performance, dating back to before the Stonewall Riots. The drag scene in Oakland, in particular, has been picking up in recent years, featuring events such as the Oaklash Drag Festival, a Drag Queen Story Hour at Oakland Public Library, and weekly or biweekly shows at White Horse Bar and the Port Bar. Mills’ drag show offered students the chance to contribute something of themselves to this rich tradition. This opportunity is particularly important at a traditional women’s college, where nonbinary and/or transmasculine students may feel excluded or othered by the institution’s gendered history.
While this November’s drag night was Mills’ first such show, it will likely not be the last. Members of TGNC are already organizing towards future shows. Drag performance is a time-honored part of queer culture and history, and shows like this one are a beautiful way to bring the vibrant LGBTQ+ community at Mills together in a celebration of talent and joy.