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Chilliwack student activists counter misconceptions about high-school drag show via video

‘Drag performances at Glow Up will be age appropriate for a teen audience,’ says school board chair
Students’ Voice members (back row) Braiden Reeves, Gabe Rowaan, Jaden Welch, Aaron Hadley, John René. (GSA), and (front row) Emily McLean, Oliver Baker, and Isabella Oberst. (Students’ Voice)

A drag show and dance at Chilliwack Secondary School on Feb. 16 has spurred some controversy including calls for organizers to cancel it.

A group of students released a video setting the record straight on the event, and the drag queen performers, said Isabella Oberst, spokesperson for Students’ Voice.

As a group of young activists they were “appalled” by the resurgence of anti-trans sentiment contained in online backlash that the Glow Up dance has been receiving.

The website, put out a “call to action” asking school officials to cancel the drag event. It warned of the “bullying tactics of activists who push this in front of our young and impressionable” students, with the opinion that those expressing opposition are not in fact: “being non-inclusive, discriminatory, a fascist or a bigot for protecting childhood innocence.”

The student video counters some of the “outrageous” claims being made about drag queens being synonymous with criminality and perversion.

“Many people automatically equate drag queens with transgender people and while there is no inherent connection, it has provided a disturbing glimpse into the minds of Chilliwack’s less tolerant community members,” Oberst said.

Students’ Voice made a similar plea via video for more tolerance during the school board election campaign last October calling out examples of book-banning bigotry and homophobic and transphobic reaction to SOGI 123.

RELATED: Drag supporters outnumber protesters in Victoria

School District 33 staff received “many” calls to cancel the event for being inappropriate for minors, but “very few” came from inside the school district community, confirmed Chilliwack school board chair Willow Reichelt.

Glow Up is being advertised as a ‘dance and creative showcase’ at CSS for members and allies of “the 2SLGBTQIA+ family.” It’s being hosted by the school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA).

Reichelt responded to one complaint in writing by explaining that SD33 was an “inclusive” school district, and a reminder that the drag show and dance was an “optional” event.

“The drag performances at Glow Up will be age appropriate for a teen audience,” Reichelt wrote.

The performers have already appeared at some local family-friendly events, including Chilliwack Pride and Drag Queen Bingo. The drag part of the event will consist of fully-clothed adults in dresses lip-synching to pop songs.

“Many people enjoy drag as an art form. Those who do not will want to skip this event,” Reichelt said.

RELATED: Students counter bigotry ahead of election

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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