Emerson’s drag-tastic take on Queer History Month

by Cathleen Cusachs / Beacon Staff • October 8, 2014

People came to the Makeup studio in walker to learn how to apply makeup, as part of Queer History Month
People came to the Makeup studio in walker to learn how to apply makeup, as part of Queer History Month

In celebration of Queer History Month, Emerson’s Alliance for Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone, or EAGLE, is hosting a series of events this month, including its annual drag performance and movie screenings.

The month has its origins in 1994, when a Missouri high school teacher, Rodney Wilson, decided that there should be a month acknowledging the community’s hardships and encouraging sexual honesty and openness. October was chosen primarily because Oct. 11 had already been established as National Coming Out Day.

EAGLE Vice President Dominique Carrieri said that Queer History Month is important because it helps those who don’t identify as queer learn more about those who do.

“Even if you don’t identify in the community, knowing the history of another person’s culture will really help you understand them to the best of your ability,” said Carrieri, a sophomore performing arts major.

Carrieri said she does not label herself as any one sexual orientation because she doesn’t want to limit her personal growth, but does identify on the queer spectrum. She said an experience she had at 16 helped her realize who she really was.

“I went away on this retreat and I met my first girlfriend and it was kind of just this surreal experience for me [in] that I felt like everything was coming together,” Carrieri said.

Carrieri said her parents had a difficult time responding when she told them, because although she knew that she identified as queer, she knew nothing else. She said the ambiguity made it hard for them to take her seriously.

“I feel like parents get a little freaked out when something about their child is uncertain,” she said.

Duncan Gelder, a junior performing arts major, said he had an easier coming out story. At the age of two, Gelder recalled asking his mother to buy him a Cinderella dress to play dress-up, and she did.

“Then I cut it up because I wanted it to be rags; I somehow didn’t make the connection that mice would not come and fix it for me,” Gelder said.

Gelder, EAGLE’s secretary, said he officially came out in seventh grade. Growing up, he said he was famous in his hometown in Maine for wearing female Halloween outfits, including a grotesque old lady costume.

“I had a great floral dress that was just hideous,” Gelder said. “And it had stained lace around every edge that it could possibly have, and it had brown flowers on it, and I had wrinkly socks up to my knees.”

Gelder said he was also drawn to the world of drag. By his senior year of high school, Gelder said he was refining his craft of drag makeup. During his freshman year at Emerson, Gelder made his first public performance at Dragtoberfest, an annual drag show that EAGLE is hosting again this year on Oct 10.

“[Drag] sort of takes society’s idea on gender and turns it into an art form, a performance art,” Gelder said. “I like Dragtoberfest because even though it is a competition, it’s sort of a chance for people who are curious to try it out, who want to show their talents.”

Carrieri said the importance of Queer History Month also lies in getting the population as a whole to support queer rights, as she said she still faces passive-aggressive comments and stereotypes.

“People feel like arguing with you about your rights, like your rights are still a question,” Carrieri said.

EAGLE’s other Queer History Month events focus on a variety of issues. On Oct. 15, it’s hosting a National Coming Out Day Panel; on Oct. 23, a screening of Alone With People; a documentary by an Emerson alumnus; and on Oct. 27, a screening of the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning.

Gelder said participating in Queer History Month is important because, although Emerson is LGTBQ-friendly, much of the world is not.

“It’s important to just keep moving and keep going,” Gelder said, “and to celebrate the great things we have, but to be aware that it’s far from perfect.”