Famous drag queen speaks out on gay, straight alliance

By Gus Bode

A famous drag queen chose SIUC as the first university she will visit to promote a gay, straight alliance.

Morgan McMichaels, the female persona of performer Thomas White, performed at the Student Center Wednesday in honor of GLBT History Month. McMichaels was on the second season of the reality television show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” She was also in the spinoff show, “RuPaul’s Drag U,” and singer Rihanna’s “S&M” music video.

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Morgan McMichaels, a drag queen with Divas of Diversity, walks around the Student Center Auditorium Wednesday while giving a GLBT rights presentation. Divas of Diversity is a workshop designed to raise awareness about differences in sexual orientation. Sarah Gardner | Daily Egyptian

McMichaels followed her drag show performance, with a speech on the hardships she has faced as a homosexual. Afterward, there was a question-and-answer session and a meet and greet.

“The gay community appreciates all these straight, fantastic people that came out tonight to support us,” McMichaels said.

Shane Carrillo, a Carbondale resident, said the event was important to her because she is pansexual.

“It means I’m attracted to people who are attractive, regardless of their gender,” Carrillo said. “As long as I find them attractive, they are attractive.”

She said she’s a fan of McMichaels because she finds the queen to be talented and funny.

“She’s very glamorous, and I kind of like the fact that she’s very modern in her drag. It’s not like the old 80s kind of stuff. It’s more fashion glamor,” Carrillo said.

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McMichaels said she grew up in Scotland, and the environment made it difficult for her sexuality to be accepted.

“It’s the same in America. They want you to be the top dog, the alpha male, but I was different,” she said.

McMichaels said it’s important not to let bullies get in the way of a happy life.

“No matter what your situation is, you don’t be the victim,” she said. “You only allow yourself to be a victim. You control you. You live your life. Don’t let anybody else tell you what you can and can’t do, because at the end of the day you only have yourself.”

She said no one should be made fun of, whether if it’s for their hair, weight, ethnicity or sexuality. McMichaels said the littlest thing could have the biggest effect on someone else.

Wendy Weinhold, coordinator of GLBT Resource Center and PhD. candidate in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, said the event is both entertaining and educational.

“It’s entertainment because it’s a drag show and the performer will have fun with the crowd, but also there is a discussion after the show,” she said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for people to understand what it means to do drag and the challenges of traveling and doing drag shows.”

She said while the event is a fun way to cap off the end of National GLBT History Month, she wanted to emphasize the entire month was full of important educational opportunities such as panel discussions and guest speakers.

Brice James, graduate assistant for Student Center Special Programs and Center Events, said the event was sponsored by SPACE, the LGBT Resource Center, SIU Student Health Services and University Housing. He said the event was McMichaels’ first performance at any university.

McMichaels works with Divas of Diversity, James said, which is a charity that donates part of performance proceeds to the organization of McMichaels’ choice. She chose the Trevor Project, which James said is a nonprofit organization focused on national suicide prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

Weinhold said one important event during the month was the Safe Zone Training, which is a national program recognized by the rainbow triangle to promote outreach, activisim and resources for people interested in being allies to the GLBT community.

“We’re really excited because we’ve trained 50 people just this month alone,” she said. “That means there’s 50 more people in the community that want to change the way the GLBT community is considered and treated.”

McMichaels said she believes it’s small towns that are more open-minded about homosexuality than the large ones. She said because SIUC was her first university performance, Carbondale will always have a place in her heart.

 

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