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UH, city continue to foster drag community despite challenges

“I remember feeling safe and accepted at drag shows, and I want others to tap into that love and acceptance,” Persephone said. | Courtesy of Daniel Hernandez

Despite various challenges such as the passing of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Texas and the growing stigma surrounding drag performances, the Houston and UH drag community has seen a significant growth in culture and events in this past year.

For some drag performers, this growth is the result of support from both students on campus and from the city of Houston. Persephone, a long-standing personality in the UH drag scene, said the student body actively grows and welcomes new forms of expression for drag performers even amongst a wave of new challenges for the community.

“Over the past five years, I’ve observed a gradual rise of drag performances on campus,” Persephone said. “Unfortunately, recent legislative actions in Texas targeting queer students and drag queens may be contributing to a decline. Despite these challenges, I feel a sense of welcome on campus, and it seems that students generally support diverse groups.”

Throughout this semester, Persephone hosted drag show competitions and games on the Nook rooftop where various community members would compete. These events hosted a variety of talents such as drag queens, kings, clowns, and other kinds of performers. 

Sauvignon Blanca, a recurring participant, attributes these events to the exposure and de-stigmatization of drag culture for UH students and Houstonians.

“It reminded me of why I do drag,”  Blanca said. “For many, this may have been their first exposure to drag, queer and trans culture. I remember feeling safe and accepted at drag shows, and I want others to tap into that love and acceptance.”

Blanca also cites participation from student organizations as another reason for the increased UH community involvement.

“People like Charles Graves with Houston Canterbury Campus Ministry are getting involved, along with other queer and trans-UH organizations to foster a safe place for all of us,” Blanca said.

Although the Nook no longer hosts Persephone’s Game of Drag, others still host and take part in shows throughout Houston. 

Media production senior Alexandra Jones, a current bartender for the Nook rooftop bar, sees the cancellation of Persephone’s Game of Drag as a symbol of how difficult it is to maintain spaces for the queer community. However, the amount of acceptance and community gained during its run remains a testament to the vibrant culture of drag at UH.

“It’s unfortunate and upsetting but we were grateful to have the space for the community in the time we had, and we continue to support the show wherever it gets moved to,” Jones said. “It’s not necessarily the location or building itself but the community that was formed around it that will continue to give life to it, I think that goes for the entire queer community too and how it survived against prejudice.”

The acceptance that drag culture receives at UH reflects the approval it has received in the city over the years. Jones acknowledges that Houston has always been a major hotspot for drag culture.

Though stigma over drag remains in Texas, the city of Houston and by extension, UH will remain supporters of its culture. 

“Drag isn’t a crime and never was. It’s a form of artistry that should accept all queer and trans identities. It’s a form of art and love. I hope people see that and act accordingly,” Blanca said.

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