An Eye Witness Account of the First "Drag Show" held at the University of San Diego
On April 11, 2012 I attended an event held on the University of San Diego (USD) campus, widely known as a Catholic institution, which was promoted as a “Drag Show.” The event was officially announced on the University website as USD’s first Drag Show that would be a “monumental event” hosted by the campus group PRIDE. I learned about the event several weeks before it took place when some USD alumni and others contacted the University to request that the event be cancelled; they were told that the event was going ahead as planned.
In the subsequent weeks leading up to the event there was extensive correspondence between the University administration and concerned alumni who were trying to persuade the officials to cancel the event. Discussions were focused on the fact that such an event should be prohibited because it was a public scandal to promote and highlight a lifestyle contrary to the teachings and morals of the Catholic Church. The USD official response was that cross-dressing was not “immoral” and having a drag queen contest on campus was not inconsistent with the University’s “Catholic” identity. As a Catholic, I was troubled by this response and decided to attend the event to see firsthand what would take place.
I was surprised that this event publically endorsed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) lifestyle and I was further surprised at the lengths they went to in order to do so. Even more unsettling was the active support and participation of the USD faculty members present, who supported a program which presented positions and implications which contradicted or ignored magisterial teaching. As a Catholic I found it very hurtful and offensive to see the Catholic faith so gravely undermined throughout the program. The event was aimed at zealously fostering support and sympathy from the USD students for lifestyles which the Catholic Church considers to be disordered and immoral. The event definitely influenced the young people in attendance and led them in a direction contrary to the doctrine of the Catholic Church. The fact that this took place at a University that professes to be “Catholic” has created a situation that I believe should be addressed and clarified by legitimate Church authorities. The controversy surrounding a Catholic University promoting such an event was covered by several local television stations as well as the national and local print media, thus giving rise to public scandal.
What was very disturbing was the fact that not once during the two and a half hour program was any mention made as to what the Catholic Church actually teaches about the homosexual lifestyle, deviant sexual practices or homosexual tendencies. It was a one-sided presentation with no allowance of an authentic Catholic viewpoint. The popular theme of combating bullying was used to promote not only awareness but full acceptance of LGBT lifestyles. While discouraging bullying and discrimination is admirable, it should not equate to the adoption of the homosexual lifestyle as normative. This is especially scandalous and undermining of Catholic principles and takes place at a time when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has made it a priority to educate and clarify for the faithful why marriage can only be between one man and one woman.
My goal is to provide an overview of what I personally witnessed and experienced at the event. I further wish to document the misguided and false positions presented regarding the lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, and transgender lifestyles and how the event undermined basic Catholic values.
The event was held on campus in the University Center with 200 tickets distributed for free on a first come, first serve basis. Non-students were allowed to attend if they were accompanied by a USD student. The number of security guards and police present was significant both inside and outside of the building. The room was packed and the event was opened by the head of the PRIDE, (a pro-homosexual campus organization) who welcomed everybody. She advised that it was prohibited to photograph or video record the event and that if anyone was caught doing so they would receive one warning. The second time they would be escorted out of the event by security. They announced that there was a video camera at the back of the room that was the only official recording being made of the event.
University professor Lori Watson, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Director of Gender Studies, gave the opening remarks focusing on how gender identity is defined by one’s internal feelings and expression. She stated that she was going to present “the history of Drag as it relates to the Gay community.”
Below is a transcription of the beginning of her presentation. (Note: It was advised that there was to be no photography or video recording. I was audio recording the lecture until I was approached by a USD staff person and asked if I was recording. When I answered affirmatively, I was told to turn off the recorder.)
Dr. Watson continued:
I am sure you know that Drag is most commonly associated with Drag Queens. A Drag Queen usually refers to a gay man, but it doesn’t have to be a gay man, impersonating a woman for an entertainment performance of some kind. A Drag King is usually understood as a lesbian, but it doesn’t have to be, impersonating a man for entertainment and performance.
One thing you will want to note in the context of this celebration is that Drag is not the same as transvestitism or transgenderism. But it is also important to note that, men dressing as women for entertainment goes back to the days of ancient Greece in theater and the performance of plays, as well as men acting in female roles throughout the history of theater including Shakespeare’s time and beyond. So this is not a new phenomenon. It is even common today as a form of entertainment.
Drag has a special history and meaning in the gay and lesbian community. It became an important part of the lesbian and gay community as part of the gay liberation movement which began in 1970’s after the Stonewall riots. That marks the beginning, for many, of gay liberation in the United States.
Drag, post Stonewall, is one way in which the gay and lesbian communities celebrate gender non-conformity and express pride in their identity as a community. So for those of you who don’t know the history, obviously gays and lesbians have long been identified by gender non-conformity. That is, their gender not conforming to the expectations of gender rolls given their biological sex. And including the medical profession where in the early twentieth century homosexuals were medicalized and called inverts. The understanding was that they had inverted brains. Females had male brains and males had female brains. The evidence of their inversion was their gender non-conformity. So they were understood to be masculinized women and feminized men and that their sexual orientation was inverted.
Gender non-conformity was key to the homosexual identity both as understood medically and within the community, partly because it served as a social signal and a means of communication amongst gays and lesbians. (She continued but the recording was stopped as mentioned earlier)
After concluding her address, Dr. Watson introduced the emcee of the event, a person who goes by the name “Tootie Nefertootie.” Tootie, a man, was dressed as a woman and one could not easily discern that he was, in fact, a man in drag. This person is openly homosexual and works full time at a restaurant in San Diego as a drag entertainer. It is also noted on this person’s website that he is a homosexual activist who encourages people to stand up for same-sex “marriage” and he outlines practical means to support that cause.
Tootie began by telling his life story and how he came to realize that he was homosexual at such a young age he could not even remember and how he has been dedicated to fostering acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. He explained his life story in a way which captured the sympathy and enthusiasm of the students in attendance who responded with cheers of approval when he described every episode. He first began by saying that he grew up in Hawaii where being homosexual was very normal and accepted by everyone. (Note: I found this very deceptive because in 1998 the population of Hawaii overwhelmingly passed, by 69 percent to 29 percent, the very first marriage amendment clarifying that the legislature has the right to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman) Tootie continued saying that since the third grade he had been acting like a girl. It was only when he moved to California that he was exposed to a public sentiment that did not fully embrace this lifestyle. He talked about his work as a drag entertainer and emcee at a local restaurant called Lips, and how that venue has enabled him to break down barriers due to “homophobic” people.
One of the highlights of his achievements he described was how he succeeded in bringing a man to be accepting of the homosexual lifestyle. He explained that he received a letter from a woman who had brought her boyfriend to the restaurant where he performs. Her boyfriend had asked her to marry him. She said that she could not say yes because he was “homophobic” and she could not have her four year son, from a previous relationship, grow up with that influence. She further stated that she had taken him to the restaurant to expose him to the drag experience and he had a great time. As a result he became accepting of the homosexual lifestyle and the following week he hosted a barbeque for all of her gay friends. As a result she said yes to his proposal. So they were married as a result of the Drag experience at the restaurant. This achievement was greeted with enthusiastic cheering and applause. He continued explaining how LGBT people have been around since the beginning of time and how it was normal in society. The environment in the auditorium was one of acceptance for homosexuality and transgenderism, despite contrary Catholic teachings and moral principles. He recommended a book entitled “Spirit and the Flesh”, which urges “respect for gender variance” and “sexual diversity”.
The general program that evening consisted of USD students who were cross dressed: that is men dressed like women and women dressed like men, who competed in a dancing and lip sync competition. As the event progressed, the participating students danced and imitated singing to the music. Following the performances, the emcee asked the participants questions in a humorous way, but many of them were presented so as to mock those who would not embrace the LGTB lifestyle as normal. When several of the students were asked what they thought should be a next step for USD to support transgenderism, they responded that the University should install “gender neutral bathrooms” to which everyone applauded and cheered.
It was interesting to note that the university had told diocesan officials, alumni and others that the event was not officially promoted by the university but only the PRIDE organization. Therefore, I was surprised to see that the panel of three judges for the contest consisted of USD faculty, including a provost and two professors. ( Mr. Carlton Floyd, PhD, Associate Provost for Inclusion and Diversity was one. The other two I can’t identify.) These faculty members were entirely engaged in the event and promoted the euphoric and carnival-like atmosphere. What was very apparent to me as an outsider was that this program was not just one event promoted by the homosexual activist PRIDE organization. Rather, it was part of an organized movement to establish the LGBT lifestyle as acceptable at USD and in the modern culture; those who did not conform were viewed as outdated and bigoted. One speaker called for everyone to bring someone else to the event next year in order to double the attendance. Thus, it was anticipated that next year’s USD Drag Show would be held in a larger venue such as a theater on campus. Also proposed was the possibility of organizing an intercollegiate drag show among the major universities in the San Diego area.
At one point the 2011-2012 student body president, Anthony Pavlovic, was called forth from the back of the room, apparently impromptu, to share his praise and emotion over the event. He explained how he had “come out” as a homosexual in his senior year of high school and wanted to attend USD. He said it was intimidating for him because he knew that USD is Catholic and that he knew “there were those who think it [homosexuality] is sinful.” When he made this statement there was an ovation in response to his indicating that it was not sinful. He went on to explain how he found USD to be supportive of him and his lifestyle and he felt no intimidation whatsoever. He was previously featured on the San Diego Channel 10 local television news defending the drag show with the statement: “It’s these people who might ground their bigotry in prayer that are the ones that attack us…”
Closing remarks were made by Prof. Evelyn Kirkley, an openly lesbian professor of Theology and Religious Studies. She came forth and began by pointing to the crowd and stating “you are all revolutionaries for standing up for LGBT.” All of these proclamations and overt acts of ideological indoctrination were met with jubilant cheering and expressions of support and approval.
Before going to the event I met with a group of students on campus who were scandalized and dismayed that the event was going to be allowed to take place. They shared with me some of their concerns about this and other events and activities that have taken place on campus and that they consider undermining of Catholic principles.
As an act of reparation the group of six or eight students went in front of the entrance of the building where the Drag Show took place. They knelt down to pray the rosary in a peaceful manner. Other students in favor of the Drag Show were also present with signs supporting the show and the LGBT lifestyle. There were a lot of media covering the scene and speaking with students. As a Catholic I found it frustrating and hurtful to see young students on a Catholic university campus publicly endorsing the homosexual lifestyle under the guise of being fair and giving “equal opportunity” to students of the LGBT persuasion.
I am grieved over the false teaching and disordered conduct which the impressionable USD students in attendance were encouraged to accept and promote as normal and acceptable. I am equally saddened by the belittling of our Catholic faith and values and the resulting public scandal created. Following the event I reviewed other material related to the university as well as the university newspaper, The Vista, and found additional material which substantiates my concerns and dismay about USD’s fidelity to Catholic principles, especially when it comes to presenting a clear position regarding Church teaching as related to the homosexual lifestyle.
This brief report is written largely from memory and is based on contemporaneous notes and partial recordings. A student who attended the program with me also witnessed the event and can give testimony as to what occurred. However, the fact that there was an official video recording made of the event should present the best opportunity to provide a detailed verification of our observations.
It is my hope that this report, and attached exhibits, will serve as a reason for appropriate ecclesiastical authorities to investigate further the promotion of LGBT ideology and activities that undermine Catholic values and influence students on the USD campus to contradict or ignore magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church.