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Students blur gender lines in eighth annual Drag Ball

Melanie Sayre

Issue date: 11/19/10 Section: Focus
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Closing a weekend of LGBT awareness, the annual Drag Ball took place on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010 in the Thwing Ballroom. People came dressed inall sorts of drag - from the modest to the outrageous.

In Athens, Greece, in the fourth century B.C., people were often dragged through the streets as a punishment for dressing as the opposite sex. The modern usage of "drag" to refer to wearing clothes of the opposite gender first appeared in 1940 though it may have started earlier in an English street slang known as Polari. Today, the word has evolved to be a celebration of tolerance and freedom of expression.

Brennon Ham, the host of the show, introduced this concept to the crowd before the show began, then quickly started off with the kings. While the drag kings were tremendously outnumbered by the queens, they were still amazing in their own right. The queens put impressive effort into the show. All the performers lip-synced to a song of their choice and danced for the crowd. From the "Kitty Sex Panther" to Esperanza to Margarita Mila (who was dancing, supposedly, to pay off her tuition at Case), all the acts were entertaining and well thought-out.

Throughout the show, the participants also played a number of games. Ham explained that "The games are supposed to serve as fun and help engage the audience. We get to have [the crowd] challenge norms all around!" Without letting the crowd know what they were getting into, random volunteers were chosen and asked to play.

The first, of course, was to show people that they should be comfortable with their bodies - by switching clothes with a random partner. The second game involved slightly less nudity with reverse leap frog, and the third required the volunteers to perform lap dances for the hosts. "We also get people comfortable with seeing sexuality and a gender expression that is different from their own," Ham said.

"The Drag Ball has happened for eight years now," said Shane Jeffers, the co-president of Spectrum. "It strives to increase awareness for the LGBT community, as well as to attempt to break down the gender binary that so many people cling to and expect others to follow as well."

Ham added that "The Drag Ball is a way for people to express themselves and challenge gender norms in a safe and friendly space." It also raises money for charity; this year, 100 percent of the proceeds - estimated at about $1000 - will be going to the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.

Though the event appeared rather disorganized at some points, it was worth it to see the kings and queens perform. There was an adequate supply of food and the crowd seemed genuinely impressed with most of the queens and kings.

"My favorite part was seeing each of the performers get out there and get super-nervous at first. Then the audience would clap and they'd get a renewed sense of confidence. It's like a condensed process of social acceptance. It's really cute," said Ham.

Jeffers agreed, "I enjoy when the crowd seems really into it and we know people are going to remember it, so that next time they see a boy in a dress, they might not think it is so strange."
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    posted 11/22/10 @ 8:17 AM EST

    I feel bad for people who feel that to be comfortable in their own bodies they have o strip in front of dozens of people. That isn't confidence, that is an attempt to mask shame by becoming shameless. (Continued…)

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