Not all boys want to be kings

Student and professional performers dragged strict adherence to gender roles out of the picture Friday night at Living Proud’s eighth annual charity drag show.

The event raised $3,042 for the Great Lakes Bay Region AIDS Walk, which benefits Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center in its mission to serve HIV and AIDS patients in its 10-county service area in Michigan.

Drag shows typically feature lip-synching performances, live singing or dancing by people dressed in drag – exaggerated ensembles traditionally characteristic of the ‘opposite gender,’ but not necessarily so.

“The exaggerated performance of gender stereotypes is both fun-filled and satirical,” Kelsey Earle, executive board member of Living Proud, said. “It serves to question and break down the idea of gender and gender roles when it comes to identity, presentation and performance. It brings a positive energy to SVSU and opens the door to understanding and acceptance.”

Living Proud, a registered student organization, is a safe space on campus for LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies, providing opportunities for making new friends, networking, participating in social events, fundraising for charity and learning about queer-related issues.

“I think the show is a fun way to spread knowledge about a culture that is largely misunderstood in this society,” Earle said. “Having students there gives it a more relaxed environment and shows that this culture can be extended to anyone.”

Hosted by Alexa Vogel, the event showcased a silent auction and competition between all volunteer performers.

 “Jackie Leigh Peters” (as portrayed by student Ari Gottleber) was awarded first place.

 “The show also is an outlet for those of us on the margins of queer life,” Gottleber said. “Living Proud does a nice job of representing LGBTQ needs on campus, but the vast majority of its spoke-persons are gay men and lesbians.  Transgender, genderqueer and queer people like me are often thrown under the freedom bus, if you will, in the name of larger social goals.

“The show allows for all of us on campus to unite, and to do so for the greater good.  That’s what the rainbow stands for: all the shades and colors and styles of our community living as one.”

Gottleber’s favorite part of performing is the reveal.

“(The performers) work very hard coming up with new, exciting and entertaining, but also sometimes serious ideas to present to our audiences,” Gottleber said. “My shows, for example, often have a political component to them.  Seeing those ideas to execution is incredibly exciting and it really is an art.  The show is the final stage.”

The 2015 Great Lakes Bay Region AIDS Walk is slated for September.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS and almost 14 percent are unaware of their infection.

“The reality is, most new HIV diagnoses are in young people between the ages of 15 to 25.  We may know to use condoms for pregnancy, but because of Michigan’s abstinence-only education in high schools, many young people don’t know how to protect themselves in terms of sexual health,” Gottleber said. “I recently met a young man who thought – because he was told in school – that condoms don’t effectively prevent disease. So this show, by raising money for the … AIDS Walk, allows students to get involved in a charity that directly affects them, whether that’s by donating time or money.”

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