The drag debate continues; multiple beliefs converge on campus


West Texas A&M University students protest at the “Original Texans” sculpture fountain on March 22 2023. (Photo/Jo Early)

By Jo Early
Dozens of West Texas A&M University students, alumni and supporters gathered today at noon at the “Original Texans” sculpture fountain in response to the message WT President Walter V. Wendler sent Monday afternoon denouncing and canceling a campus drag show. March 22, 2023 was the second day of the week-long protest, and attendees carried signs and Pride flags as they chanted “love thy neighbor,” “L-O-V-E, room for all at WT,” and “we won’t back down, the whole world is watching now.”

Members of WT’s gay-straight alliance, Spectrum, were among those in attendance.

“It was meant to just be a celebration of gender, of femininity, of just everything that we think is good about the LGBTQ community,” Laur Stovall, vice president of Spectrum and a sophomore political science major, said. “And I’m very disheartened that Walter Wendler would go against that, and we’re also here to protest because he does not have the right to discriminate.”

The drag queens meant to perform at the campus show will now join a show hosted by the Amarillo Area Transgender Advocacy Group on April 1, according to Teresa Burnett, the group’s public relations chair.

“I’m hoping to accomplish shutting down the haters,” Burnett said of her presence at today’s protest. “Because there’s so many of them, especially the group [praying across the fountain] that are going to try to tell us that we’re going to hell, and we’re not.”

A group of students stood to the side of the fountain and spent the hour in prayer. Among them was Caleb Frick, a junior agricultural media communications major.

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  • Jamie Parchesky (left) and Hagen Lamn. (Photo/Jo Early)

  • Teresa Burnett (Photo/Jo Early)

  • West Texas A&M University students gathered in prayer at the “Original Texans” sculpture fountain on March 22, 2023. (Photo/Jo Early)

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“No, this is not a counter-protest,” Frick said. “We’ve been praying, walking and sitting a little bit because it’s not meant as a counter-protest. We’re just praying over everyone that’s coming around, and I guess really praying for peace with everyone is what we’re trying to do.”

President Wendler said in his message that drag shows are “derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent.”

Riley Harbour, a sophomore secondary theatre education major, disagrees. “Women are powerful,” Harbour said. “And I think that drag shows that. Watching drag makes me feel confident in myself, and it makes me feel powerful.”

Some attendees came to show support for President Wendler, such as Rick Lopez, a WT alumnus and community pastor.

“I stand with him,” Lopez said. “I wrote him an email. I told him I appreciated what he did, what he stands for, for his Biblical beliefs.”

Proceeds of the campus drag show were to be donated to The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth.

“Why is their suicide rate so high in that group?” Lopez asked. “Because of the demonic spirits that they have allowed into their lives. Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy.”

The protesters finished their demonstration at 1 p.m., chanting, “drag is not hate, tomorrow at noon,” during their final walk around the fountain. Stovall said there are many ways for students to show their support.

“Sign our petition, come to our protest, support us on Instagram @wtamuspectrum,” Stovall said. “If you can give us a follow, we’re posting things there.”

President Wendler is not giving interviews and has no further comment.