On Friday night, a new era of royalty reigned over Kilcawley Center’s Chesnut Room during Youngstown State University’s YSUnity Drag Show.
Among the kings and queens was Youngstown resident Paige Coven, who lip-synched songs from Broadway shows such as “Rent” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
With the stage name Kage Kraven, Coven has been performing as a drag king for over eight years. Originally a female, he started questioning whether he wanted to change his sexual identity when he began to perform in drag shows around the area.
“When I went to my first drag show, the one performer on stage spotted me out in the crowd and asked, ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’” Coven said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to begin performing and acting as a male.”
Coven said he hopes that Friday night’s drag show helped students who may be questioning their sexuality feel comfortable in their own skin.
For the past 16 years, YSUnity has put on its drag show at YSU. Since then, the organization has moved toward a more educational direction by holding question and answer sessions as part of each drag show. During Friday’s show, the main focus of the Q and A session was about the transgender community.
Tim Bortner, vice president of YSUnity, said he hopes audience members left the drag show with more knowledge about the transgender community than when they arrived.
“We really just want to make everyone aware of the transgender community,” Bortner said. “There are a lot of things people don’t know or may be confused about when learning about transgender individuals.”
During the show, Denise Russell, the headline performer and drag show host, held a special Q and A after the intermission to let audience members ask the queens about things they may be confused about dealing with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex and Ally community.
Bortner said that one of the most common misconceptions about the transgender community is the difference between being a transgender and being a drag queen.
“They are two completely different things,” he said. “When you are a drag queen, you dress up in the opposite sex’s clothing, while, on the other hand, when you are a transgender, you have gone through a process or are going through a process of changing your sexual identity.”
Coven said that when it comes to understanding the LGBTQIA community, it’s important to understand the difference between sex and gender.
“The community, actually, from the inside, looks like there is a huge war going on. The lines are blurred everywhere. It’s not black and white. Gender is a spectrum,” Coven said. “In the LGBT community, the first 3 letters are concerned with sexuality and the third is gender. They are not the same and not connected. Your identity is defined by you, and no one else defines that for you.”
After the Q and A segment, the performers took the stage to present their final acts to the audience.
Ava Rose, one of the drag queen performers, said she is proud of the turnout that the show had and hopes it helped students get a peek inside the transgender community.
“When I started this, we ran in and out of the bars hoping that we didn’t get beat up. What we went through made each generation after us a little bit easier,” Rose said. “To have this on the campus of a university is awesome. It’s like you get to come back and see how your work paid off.”
Bortner said that he hopes the drag show helped some YSU students become comfortable with their sexuality after seeing the show.
“We hope students that may be confused can see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that there is actually hope,” he said. “That’s why we hoped that we expanded our horizons with the show, so that the audience can look into this different lifestyle and become more understanding and comfortable with it.”