GSA and drag bring new flair to old game


Grace Powers, Staff Writer

Alana Coke struts her stuff during the Bingo game — Sept. 29, 2016 (photo by Grace Powers)

The game is bingo. The objective is to cover five consecutive spaces, vertically, horizontally or diagonally. However, Armstrong’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club has a different take on the game. On Wednesday, Sept. 29, a record turnout gathered in the Student Union Ballroom to play Bingo, have fun and watch fellow peers Señor Soto, Jasper Beaument and Alana Coke perform drag routines.

The club’s twist comes into play once a participant successfully completes a bingo. Not only did that student receive a prize pack but the entire crowd was treated to a performance by three of Armstrong’s finest. This year’s performances were highlighted by faux king Señor Soto’s live vocals, drag king Jasper Beaument’s renditions of popular Panic! At The Disco songs, and drag queen Alana Coke’s sensational dance routines.

“We got the idea from SCAD, who we work very closely with,” GSA President Hunter Hart explained. “It’s a great way to honor amateurs and locals and anyone who wants to perform.”

The event is also designed to help “warm up the campus to drag,” as Vice President Charles Breazeale explained. Another goal of the event is to spread the word, especially to the freshman who may not realize the GSA club exists. The event has had great success in the past. One of the club’s previous performers, Sayyida, has now gone on to work with the Orlando Disney program.

Hart’s favorite aspect of any drag event happens when the kings and queens come off the stage and interact with the crowd. As soon as their heels leave the stage, all rules go out the window. Last year, there was a large dance off at the end of the event, and one lucky audience member was fortunate enough to receive a big smooch.

It is no coincidence that drag shows are as fun and good-natured as they are. The very art of drag promotes acceptance and love.

“Drag taught me that the only love you can trust is the love you give yourself,” expressed Alana Coke. “Drag is whatever you say feels like drag.” And for Coke, real name Jacob Boney, drag has been his escape.

In high school, he struggled with his identity and even considered transgender surgery in an attempt to understand why, when he danced, he felt feminine.

“After taking a second and really looking into myself, I decided my want was not to be a woman and I definitely didn’t feel that I was trapped. My desire was to look like [a woman] while dancing and drag changed that for me.” It also serves as a way for Jacob to channel his “fierceness and insecurities” so the world doesn’t seem “like such a backwards and scary place.” Coke encourages everyone to try drag at least once, or, at the very least, to find the thing that makes the world seem brighter.

Continually doing drag is a different struggle, one that is a constant battle for people like Jacob.

“As a queen we are ridiculed and marginalized by sections of all communities,” Coke explained. Many supporters for the queens and kings of drag comes from the drag community itself, making it a very close-knit family.

Despite the small footprint of drag in the Armstrong community, Coke hopes that, “with the continuance of the drag show on campus… one day drag [won’t be] seen as something… gays do but rather something everyone can enjoy and partake in.”

For up-and-coming closet or newbie kings and queens, Coke leaves the following piece of advice: “Never let anyone tell you what drag is. Don’t feel that if you aren’t loud or crazy or do the biggest hair that you aren’t good.”

Drag, Coke explained, is more about self-expression and love than about the most outlandish performance, and it is important that people understand the impact and importance of drag for so many.

GSA is hosting its Coming Out Prom Oct. 12 from 7-10 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom.