Fordham must do better for trans students
Friday night, Fordham hosted its first ever drag show in Pope Auditorium at the Lincoln Center campus. As a trans masculine person, I was hesitant to go. Drag has a long and controversial history in the queer community. On one hand, drag allows people of all genders to explore and experiment with their gender identity. On the other, it enforces gender stereotypes, and paints trans people as costumes that can be taken on and off. Despite all of this, I felt compelled to go after reading about the petition started by a Christian group to shut it down (which at my last look had around 13,000 signatures). I wanted to support my fellow LGBT people at Fordham, and this felt like a good way to do it. So, with four friends (including another trans man), I made my way to Lincoln Center for a good time.
I have to say I enjoyed most of the show. It was a fun and positive space for many people to express themselves. However, it was clear that most of, if not all, of those running the show were cis-gender people. About half way through the show a cis woman was introduced as a ‘bio’ queen. While her performance was energetic, the term bio queen did not escape my notice.
Many transphobic commentaries today use the term ‘bio woman’ or ‘bio man.’ Trans-exclusionists often use biology to verbally harass trans people online; telling them that they are not biologically the gender that they identify as, so they cannot be that gender. My trans friend and I gave each other a knowing glance and braced ourselves for the worst. We seemed to be the only people that felt uncomfortable in the room. Her performance was quick though and nothing too cringe-y, except for the term used to describe her. It would have been easy to put behind me, so I could enjoy the rest of the show, but things took a turn for the worse when one of the hosts decided to read a statement from the Rainbow Alliance.
The letter was written with good intentions, but the road to hell is paved with those isn’t it. They acknowledged the history of transphobia and misogyny in modern drag, but the letter felt half-assed to speak bluntly. The letter felt as if they were trying to cover themselves in case someone say, wrote an opinion piece calling them out on the terms they used. If those behind this show wanted to keep these harmful stereotypes out, they should have read the letter first. If they wanted to sound meaningful it shouldn’t have been after they had their ‘bio’ queen perform. They could have called her just a queen or even a cis queen. In fact, after some googling, these types of queens are often called diva queens or faux queens. Despite that, the show decided on bio queen.
As much as Fordham likes to think it is, it has never been a good place for trans people. Many trans students, myself included, constantly feel alienated and forgotten about on campus. Both campuses have at least one gender neutral bathroom, but not in common, public areas. Trans students who live on campus are not allowed to room with other students of the gender they most closely identify with. The few queer spaces on both campuses mostly cater to cis gays and lesbians, which is great, but leaves no space for those who are not cis-gender.
I am very happy that Fordham allowed a drag show to happen on campus. I am happy that many people were able to explore and express their identities. I want to let all the drag queens and kings know that I loved their performances. I hope that this becomes a tradition for future queer people at Fordham to enjoy. I highly doubt that those in the Rainbow Alliance and Fashion for Philanthropy meant anything to be seen as transphobic. However, those running the show must do better to acknowledge and stop transphobic themes from making their way into the show in the future.