Texas oSTEM to host student drag night, celebrate queer expression

Sarah Brager, General Life & Arts Reporter

When Matthew offered to help organize a student drag night for his LGBTQ+ organization, Out in STEM, last semester, he did not expect to end up performing on stage. Dressed up as Velma from Scooby-Doo, Matthew said taking the stage pushed him out of his comfort zone. Despite being new to drag, he said he found the experience extremely rewarding. 

“It’s nice to have that space where you don’t have to worry about how other people see you or having to act a certain way,” Matthew said. “It was very positive.” 

oSTEM, an LGBTQ+ community for students interested in STEM, will host its semesterly student drag show Friday at the William C. Powers Black Box Theater. Organized by Matthew, the oSTEM culture chair and an aerospace engineering junior, the show will feature drag performances from students of any major and experience level. Matthew said he wanted to create a safe space for students to celebrate their LGBTQ+ identity and experiment with gender expression. 

Matthew said the organization welcomes students from any gender identity and sexuality to walk in last minute with song selections and perform, aiming to provide a low-stakes opportunity for students to give drag a try. 

“I would definitely say it’s worth experimenting with and trying it, even if you don’t want to do a full performance,” Matthew said. “Allowing yourself to dress or act the way you want can help you have a better sense of who you are.” 

Linguistics sophomore Leila DiPasquale said events like oSTEM drag night offer an opportunity to figure out how they want to express their gender. DiPasquale said they first found interest in drag after watching Drag on The Drag — a live drag show at Dobie rooftop — and decided to give performing a shot at oSTEM drag night last year. 

“One thing I really liked about (drag) is that you can’t be too over the top — you can try anything,” DiPasquale said. “That gives you a lot of space with how you want to experiment with your gender expression, and I had a lot of fun with that.”

DiPasquale said they wanted to experiment with a more masculine look, using makeup to contour their face and wearing a sweater with built-in shoulder pads. Dancing to the song “I/Me/Myself” by Will Wood, DiPasquale said they loved challenging the boundaries of masculine presentation in a way they were not able to before. 

Physics and astronomy sophomore Cady Sebold said she found drag helpful for reducing anxiety surrounding self-expression and boosting self-confidence. Having spent many years practicing cosplay — the practice of dressing up as different fictional characters — Sebold said performing in drag for the oSTEM event last semester felt like a natural way to express her creativity. 

Sebold said she’d like to see more people engage with drag, by performing or watching, to promote queer celebration and normalize forms of expression that are typically judged and misunderstood. Additionally, Sebold said she hopes to see more opportunities for students to perform in drag on campus in the future. 

“Everyone expresses themselves in their own way, so judging people based on that is small minded,” Sebold said. “Fostering a creative, welcoming environment is really important because if everyone’s feeling comfortable doing what they love, then you’ve got an all-around stronger community.”