In a message to students, faculty, and staff, West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler said that drag performances denigrate women and declared that the school will not host a drag performance on campus.
In an Instagram post earlier this month, the WTAMU “Spectrum” student organization advertised the drag event, noting, “Spectrum is working with F1RSTGEN and other orgs on campus to produce A Fool’s Drag Race, coming soon!”
While Wendler condemned drag in his message, he suggested that people send money to the Trevor Project, an organization the drag show had been slated to benefit.
“West Texas A&M University will not host a drag show on campus,” Wendler wrote. “It was advertised for March 31, 2023, as an effort to raise money for The Trevor Project. The nonprofit organization focuses on suicide prevention—a noble cause—in the LGBTQ community.”
“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. Any event which diminishes an individual or group through such representation is wrong,” Wendler wrote.
“Drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent. Such conduct runs counter to the purpose of WT. A person or group should not attempt to elevate itself or a cause by mocking another person or group. As a university president, I would not support ‘blackface’ performances on our campus, even if told the performance is a form of free speech or intended as humor. It is wrong. I do not support any show, performance or artistic expression which denigrates others—in this case, women—for any reason,” he declared.
“A harmless drag show? Not possible. 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. Supporting The Trevor Project is a good idea. My recommendation is to skip the show and send the dough,” Wendler wrote.
Spectrum pushed back in a statement, arguing that “Drag is not a mockery,” but “a celebration of … queerness, gender, acceptance, love and especially femininity.”
The group requested that Wendler reinstate the drag performance, apologize, and step down from his role as university president.
A petition page posted on Change.org declares, “We, the students of WTAMU … urge him to reinstate the drag show on-campus. We are holding this drag show whether we have his support or not, but his extreme lack of compassion for the LGBT+ and activist student population on campus shows with this latest e-mail.”
Back in 2020, Wendler recognized the 30-year milestone of the school being a part of the Texas A&M University System:
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