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drag shows Archives - Tony Ward Studio

Michelle Chen: Cat Walking to Freedom

drag queen at Upenn drag show backstage portrait

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Posted on May 6, 2015 by Michelle Chen

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Recently, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBTQ) Center at Upenn hosted one of their most exciting events of the year: the QSA Drag Show.  Getting the opportunity to get backstage and preshow access, I was able to get a unique glimpse into the small, but boisterous community.  The center acts as a home away from home for those sexual and gender minorities at the University of Pennsylvania.  One of the representatives said, “ the Center welcomes those that question their identity, in the process of coming out, or proudly identify as LGBTQ.”

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

drag show makeup back stage

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

 

They offer peer mentorships, safe spaces to study and socialize, and a calendar full of events like this Drag Show.  As one of the oldest and most active LGBTQ, the center hosted events to serve UPenn’s students, faculty, and staff like its Queer Factor week.  One of the participants in the Drag Show, Eric, told me, during the last week of March, they host events that range from learning about LGBT history at Penn, discussions with queer writers, performances by Ulanday Barret who is a disabled pinoy-american transgender poet, chats with a queer pastor, film screenings of “The Normal Heart” that tells the story of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York in 1981, and showcase of research on queer theory.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

transgender student, Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

I had the opportunity to watch the screening of Mala Mala, which tells the transgender experience and powerful transformation through the eyes of nine trans individuals in Puerto Rico.  As I was watching the film, I looked around me and it was easy to see that all the people in the room were riding an emotional roller coaster as they watched these LGBT advocates fight for their own personal and community acceptance.  Many of these performers themselves have been in through triumphant highs and devastating lows as they lived a life of self-discovery.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

transgender students, Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

During the drag show, as the participants flaunted and cat walked down the runway, they were not only doing it as part of their character, but also to showcase to the Penn community the problems that LGBTQ communities face and how they need to be united together as friends.  Each of these performers showcased their inner diva, royalty, and their true face at this show.

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

transgender student, Upenn

cuban house painted in pink with rooster out front on the lawn

Photography and Text by Michelle Chen, Copyright 2015

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About The Author: Michelle Chen is a senior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2015.