Here Be Draganz: Report from a Harvard Drag Show
Harvard funding in action - perhaps too much action - at the Science Center Plaza
On the evening of October 21st, around 100 people gathered in the Science Center Plaza Tent for Draganza, “a night full of drag history, drag show performances, and a queer dance party.” Performances featured Briar Blush, Candace Persuasian, Lilly Rose Valore, Rusty Hammer, and Violencia Exclamation Point. The event was hosted by Harvard Common Spaces in conjunction with the Harvard LGBTQ@GSAS Association, Harvard Office for the Arts, Harvard Houghton Library, Harvard Queer Students Association, and Harvard Sex Week & SHEATH. As the event was “free and open to Harvard & public communities,”1 all who walked by were welcome to join in the festivities, with no age restriction.
In the weeks leading up to the event, it was publicized to the Harvard community through multiple emails from the Office of Student Engagement, Office of the Arts, house email lists, and a large sign posted in the science center plaza. The day of the event, a large rainbow balloon arch framed the Science Center tent. Music and lights could be noticed from the yard. It was impossible to miss.
It is unclear how this event effectively contributed to students’ academic, social, and cultural wellbeing. It certainly did not promote students’ ability to pursue Veritas.
All were welcome to enjoy the following performances: performers twerking in sparkly leotards, spreading their legs on stage, tumbling on the floor, squat-walking on the floor; a performer shaking their head vigorously over an audience member’s groin area, an audience member chasing the performer around the perimeter of the floor, the performer dry humping an audience member, an audience member dry humping the performer, a performer pulling an audience member’s face to the performer’s chest, a performer pulling an audience member’s face to the performer’s groin, and so forth. Significant portions of the performance were dedicated to collecting tips. Audience members stuffed cash into the drag queens’ bras and the underside of their leotards; sometimes, performers had tippers drop money into their pants.
A flier, seen all over campus, advertising the event.2
According to Harvard Common Spaces, the Science Center Plaza is intended to “promote and enhance the academic, social, and cultural wellbeing of Harvard’s students, faculty, staff, and academic personnel.” Of course, the event was certainly not academic. Did students, many of whom are minors, enhance their social and cultural wellbeing by tipping drag queens after watching them perform sexually provocative dances? Was it appropriate for Harvard to host adult entertainment, with no age restrictions, in the center of Cambridge? I’ll let the reader judge.
Draganza wasn’t cheap, either. Combined with expenses for the staff, parking, equipment, refreshments, and security, the performers’ fees, which could range in the hundreds of dollars, easily made Draganza a multi-thousand-dollar event. It cannot be said that this money was spent well. Precious funding could have been redirected to higher quality dining hall food, more substantial Brain Breaks, cleaner dorm bathrooms, or a more efficient mail system. It is unclear how this event effectively contributed to students’ “academic, social, and cultural wellbeing.” It certainly did not promote students’ ability to pursue “Veritas.”3
I remain puzzled by the motivations of the hosts. Are we lacking in BGLTQ+ events and educational opportunities? There are 11 official undergraduate BGLTQ-related student organizations, which together usually host multiple events every day. Harvard as an institution is fiercely protective of BGLTQ+ freedom of expression. What, exactly, is the purpose of LGBTQIA2S+ community drag shows at Harvard?
If you think there is a better way to allocate our resources than to hire performers to dry hump Harvard community members, write to administrators and the hosts of the event. Investigate how budgets for student life are spent. If you think there is a perspective that I have not yet considered, please write to us. We sincerely welcome debate. Hold us to our word. Let’s come together to decide the focus of our public-facing community events, and let us truly promote the social, cultural, and academic well-being of Harvard’s community.
A version of this article originally appeared in Fading Crimson, the November 2022 print issue of the Salient.
“Draganza,” Harvard Common Spaces, accessed Oct. 25, 2022.
Harvard Common Spaces, Draganza, digital art.
Vivi Lu and Leah Teichholtz, “Bacow, Khurana Call on Harvard Freshmen to Seek Truth at Convocation,” Harvard Crimson, Aug. 31, 2022.