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Common Ground hosts drag show on Mercer’s campus for the first time

Tangerine Summers lip syncs to Vogue by Madonna.
Tangerine Summers lip syncs to Vogue by Madonna.

Several student organizations brought a drag show to campus on March 30.

Common Ground, Campus Life, Project Equality and the Mercer University School of Medicine’s Genders and Sexualities Alliance (GSA) teamed up for the show, said McPherson Newell, president of Common Ground, in an email to The Cluster.

“The second annual Mercer University drag show featured an educational panel about the history of drag and its role in the LGBTQ+ community, five performances by Mercer students and two performances by Tangerine Summers, a legendary drag queen from Macon,” Newell said.

Last year the show was hosted in downtown Macon. This year it was hosted in Penfield Hall.

“We were approved to have it on campus this year since last year's show was a success, and the performances were appropriate for campus and adhered to Mercer's community standards,” Newell said.

Jessica Smith performed in the show and said bringing drag to campus was special.

“It means a lot to have done this on Mercer's campus, because Mercer has been -- gracious, still is considered one of the most Republican, the most conservative campuses in the United States,” Smith said. “So it's like we have a presence and we're not going to back down, we're not just going to disappear.”

Monica Stephenson, a senior theatre major, said being allowed to perform on campus was a step in the right direction.

“In my high school, we did have a GSA group, which stands for Gender and Sexuality Alliance now, but when I was in high school it was called a Gay-Straight Alliance. But we weren’t allowed to write that out on any paperwork or posters on school grounds, so a lot of people didn’t know what the group was,” Stephenson said in an email.

"To be able to go from that in high school to being able to perform on campus in drag is really important to me because it feels like we are slowly, step by step, getting closer to accepting and celebrating queer people in schools,” they said.

The show was free to all students, but donations were collected for the Macon HOPE Center, Newell said.

The center helps people living with HIV and AIDS.

“We chose this organization because there's a strong history of drag being used to fundraise for HIV/AIDS-related care,” Newell said. “At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, a lot of LGBTQ+ communities and organizations held drag shows to fundraise for health care, clothing, Christmas gifts and other resources for people living with HIV,” Newell said.

Raising money for HIV and AIDS patients is especially important in Georgia and Bibb county, Newell said.

“Georgia has the second-highest transmission rate of HIV in the country, and Bibb County has the ninth-highest number of people living with HIV per 100,000 community members in Georgia, so it's necessary for us to integrate the subject of HIV/AIDS into our everyday conversations because it's affecting so many of our community members' everyday lives,” he said.

Over $350 in donations was raised at the event.

Newell said plans for next year’s show have already begun.

“Everyone on the Common Ground executive board hopes that this event will continue long after we graduate and that an annual drag show will become a tradition for Mercer's LGBTQ+ community and allies,” Newell said.

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