DeKALB – Northern Illinois University’s Gender Sexuality Alliance is preparing to stage a drag show for what organizers say is a good cause.
The second annual charity event will make its return to the university for another go-around featuring five performers, including one duet. The show is open to the public and is set for 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday in the Duke Ellington Ballroom at NIU’s Holmes Student Center, 340 Carroll Avenue, DeKalb.
NIU student and Gender Sexuality Alliance President Max Sharkey said the group’s intent with the Not Guilty Pleasures GSA Drag Show is simple. Tips for each performer will go to the performer’s charity of choice.
“Our main goal is to raise money for the charities of the performer’s choice, and we want to spread awareness that anyone can do drag,” Sharkey said. “Drag doesn’t look one particular way. [We want] to have some fun and bring more diversity to campus.”
Drag shows across the region have been met with strong reaction, including opposition and protests in certain areas. In February, two sold-out drag shows took place at Sandwich Opera House despite protests and some opposition from Sandwich City Council members. In August, Downers Grove Public Library defended its decision to host a drag show amid some criticism. UpRising Bakery in Lake in the Hills canceled a planned drag show in December amid rampant protests and rising terrorism concerns.
Prior to UpRising’s cancelation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued an updated Terrorism Advisory System bulletin for members of the LGBTQ community, along with public gatherings, faith-based institutions, schools, racial and religious minorities, government facilities, the media and perceived ideological opponents. It was the seventh advisory issued since January 2021 and replaces the bulletin that expired Nov. 30.
“Our main goal is to raise money for the charities of the performer’s choice, and we want to spread awareness that anyone can do drag. Drag doesn’t look one particular way. [We want] to have some fun and bring more diversity to campus.”— Max Sharkey
The bakery has since announced an initial plan to shutter its doors, though amid a fundraiser owners have said they remain undecided about the business’ future.
The NIU event planned for Saturday, however, has not been met with great resistance amid the political climate of today’s world, which Sharkey said has been helpful to organizers.
“Fortunately, I’ve come to find that NIU is a pretty welcoming and accepting environment,” Sharkey said. “We’re not professional performers. We’re just NIU students and staff that are performing. So, I think that alleviates a little bit of the pressure that this is not our full-time job. I admire people that do it full time but there’s no way that I could do that.”
Gender Sexuality Alliance is aiming to cast a wider net with the drag show this time around.
Sharkey said the inaugural event was open only to the NIU law school.
The event is open not only to the university community but also the general public, he said.
“Everybody is welcome to come,” Sharkey said. “We recommend 17-plus just because there’s some sexual suggestive in the songs and what-not. Anyone’s welcome.”
Tickets to the drag show cost $15. At the door, it will cost $20.
The drag show last year helped raised almost $400 per charity and about the same in ticket sales, Sharkey said.
“This year, we’ve well-surpassed the ticket sales,” Sharkey said. “We opened it to more people, so I was hoping that that would be the case. But we’re hoping to raise a lot of money for charity.”