After West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler canceled a drag show on school property, students held an “all-ages” drag show off campus at a nearby park to protest his decision.
In an email sent to students, faculty, and staff last month, Wendler announced his cancelation of the event, “A Fool’s Drag Race,” set to be held at the university’s campus event hall. Wendler also condemned drag shows, which feature men crossdressing as women.
“As a performance exaggerating aspects of womanhood (sexuality, femininity, gender), drag shows stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood,” said Wendler. “Drag shows are derisive, divisive, and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent. Such conduct runs counter to the purpose of WT,” he added, comparing drag shows to “blackface.”
The drag show was advertised as a fundraiser for The Trevor Project, a controversial nonprofit focused on LGBTQ youth suicide prevention. However, The Trevor Project also offers advice about sexual orientation and gender identity and hosts online chats between LGBTQ teens as young as 13 and adults up to 24.
Last year, a mom looking for help for her child said she discovered a “Pandora’s box” of inappropriate content in The Trevor Project’s chat room—including adults pushing kids toward gender transitions, giving advice on how to hide transitions from parents, and describing sex acts and fetishes.
WTAMU’s LGBT organization, Spectrum, which planned the event, and two of the group’s student leaders filed a lawsuit against Wendler and several other WTAMU officials.
The lawsuit asserts that the First Amendment prevents Wendler from canceling the drag show based on his personal beliefs, citing a sentence in Wendler’s university-wide email where he states, “I will not appear to condone the diminishment of any group at the expense of impertinent gestures toward another group for any reason, even when the law of the land appears to require it.”
Spectrum also started a GoFundMe campaign, asking for donations to help the group find a different venue for “A Fool’s Drag Race.” The project received more than $8,000 from donors, which allowed Spectrum to host their drag show at Sam Houston Park in Amarillo.
An advertisement for the event labeled the show as “PG-13” but stated that minors would be allowed to attend if they were with a parent or guardian.
Pictures from the event show several young children in the audience. According to Sarah Fields, president of the Texas Freedom Coalition, the park was within view of a playground and across the street from a middle school.
On social media, Fields posted a video from the event that appears to show a drag queen removing his top and children bringing tips to the performers.
In Amarillo, Tx, an “All Ages Drag Show” was held at Sam Houston Park. Amarillo PD was present to the left of the stage at all times. Towards the end, it appears that the last dancer removes her top. (Close up of video in tweet thread) pic.twitter.com/Vs5jJH97Ra
— Sarah Fields (@SarahisCensored) April 2, 2023
Fields condemned the show, saying, “Why is this behavior allowed in public in front of children? If someone did this in a grocery store, a public place, they would be arrested.”