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On Thursday, Tennessee Tech University (TTU) President Phil Oldham canceled two campus groups’ future drag shows for mocking Christianity and exposing minors to explicit activity.
Oldham declared that TTU wasn’t aware or complicit of these “obscene, lewd, or explicit” drag shows, and that what he saw “disturbed and dismayed” him. TTU will be investigating those behind the drag shows for mocking Christians and involving minors.
“I do not feel the activities in the video represent Tech’s values, and I do not condone explicit activity where minors are present. I also am offended by disparaging mockery toward any religious group,” wrote Oldham.
Until Thursday, TTU frequently hosted drag shows open to all ages at the Backdoor Playhouse theater. The offending drag show cited by Oldham went viral online earlier this month: children were handing cash to a drag queen performing a dance mocking Christians.
In the video, the drag performer dressed as a sad monk crossing himself as he walked around the stage to the song, “Take Me to Church” by Hozier. Then the music changes to “Middle of the Night” by Elley Duhé, a song about sex, and the drag performer strips down to a bodysuit, caressing his body and gathering cash from a cheering audience and minors who approach him onstage.
Tennessee Tech University hosted a drag show that had little kids handing cash to the drag queen who was performing a dance clearly meant to mock Christians. Every parent who pays to send their kids to @tennesseetech deserves to know that this is what they’re allowing on campus. pic.twitter.com/Q4I9uR2tcT
— Landon Starbuck (@LandonStarbuck) September 7, 2022
Those behind the drag shows were planning on hosting another show open to minors at the end of this month. All of the shows took place at TTU’s Backdoor Playhouse, the campus’ 60-year-old theater.
Are you ready to RUMBLE?!?! Upper Cumberland Pride VS. Kings Of Khaos will be September 24th at 6:30 PM. There is a $5 cover and is for all ages! pic.twitter.com/syZKaXqlSo
— Upper Cumberland Pride (@ucpridetn1) September 6, 2022
A TTU senior — who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation — said she was pleased with Oldham’s response. She said a lot of her peers share Oldham’s sentiment.
The senior added that there’s a lack of awareness that drag culture is prevalent in the Cookeville, Tennessee, area where TTU is located.
“A lot of people weren’t aware that this is something that is part of our city now, in a way. I don’t think anybody really knew that this was such an active culture, or whatever drag is,” said the senior. “But we didn’t realize they were performing quite frequently on campus and what their target audience has been. It’s disturbing.”
Those organizing the event were Upper Cumberland Pride, TTU Lambda Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and TTU’s drama club Tech Players. The Daily Wire reached out to one of the principal organizers, Upper Cumberland Pride, for comment. They responded with a statement given to the community in which they conveyed that they were “disheartened and dismayed” by the “misrepresentation” of the drag show.
“The accusations made on social media are not only false but damaging to all those involved. Our hope is to resolve this misunderstanding with the university and continue to educate the community about our organization and the LGBTQIA+ community,” stated the organization.
Upper Cumberland Pride also claimed that the drag performer wasn’t dressed as a member of the clergy, nor did his performance criticize any religion, including Christianity. The organization also claimed that no children were ever present at any of their events, and that no sexual connotation was present in their performances.
“No child was put in any sexual situation, nor have they ever been at any event held by UCP,” said the organization. “When we hold all ages events, performers are asked to ensure that song lyrics are clean and that there is no sexual connotation to their performances. We want everyone in attendance to feel safe, welcome, and to have a good time.”
Upper Cumberland Pride also hosted a Drag Queen Story Hour at TTU in April, in connection with the Tennessee chapter of the Drag Queen Story Hour national network. According to the organization’s Instagram page, their agenda is to free children from “the constraints of prescribed gender roles.”
“Drag points out the silliness, the thrill, and the powerful feelings of challenging societal expectations,” stated the organization.
The latest upcoming drag show TTU canceled was an effort to raise money for Upper Cumberland Pride. As the organization noted in January, previous fundraising efforts average about $1,000 raised.
The UCPride Board would like to thank all the performers and everyone that came out to support the Upper Cumberland Pride event Stomp the Stage 2.0 Drag Show. We raised almost $1000! Our next Drag at the Backdoor fundraiser is February 26th, SAVE THE DATE.#ucpride #LGBTQPLUS #ttu pic.twitter.com/Zlsweehcg1
— Upper Cumberland Pride (@ucpridetn1) January 24, 2022
TTU isn’t the only one to reject drag shows as of late.
As The Daily Wire reported on Thursday, the Boise Pride Festival lost one of their biggest sponsors, Zion Bank, for scheduling a “Drag Kids” show.
These rejections are part of a larger cultural conflict concerning the sexualization of children, with major cities like Chicago, Austin, and New York City encouraging children’s involvement in drag shows, in addition to school systems across the nation. The entertainment sector is on board as well: Disney announced last month that it would include a drag queen in its new Marvel teen series.
Disclosure: The Daily Wire has announced plans for kids entertainment content.