Catholic College Teaches Students About ‘Drag Culture,’ an ‘Artistic Expression’

Catholic College Teaches Students About ‘Drag Culture,’ an ‘Artistic Expression’

[Not an April Fool’s Day joke!]

April 1, 2016 | By Adam Cassandra |

University of Dayton officials legitimized men dressing as women and performing on stage as “an artistic expression in our culture” in comments to The Cardinal Newman Society about an event held Easter Wednesday at the Catholic college that brought in an “educational drag troupe” to teach students about “drag culture.”

The event, “Rubi Girls: Transformation, An Interactive Experience,” featured the Dayton, Ohio,-based “comedic, charitable, and educational drag troupe” known as the Rubi Girls. The Rubi Girls are a “group of gay men in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s” who perform “charity-driven, comedic drag performances.” The group is comprised of “elementary school teachers, a clinical counselor, a filmmaker and business owners” who don women’s clothing and makeup for performances.


A flyer for the event provided the following description: “Want to know more about drag culture? Take a behind the scenes look at the transformative process of a drag queen. Get up close and personal with members of the Rubi Girls in an interactive event as you watch them transform before you.” The advertisement featured images of men dressed as women.
According to the flyer, the event was sponsored by the University of Dayton, the University’s Institute for Arts Nexus, the University of Dayton LGBTQ+ Support Services and Spectrum, the University of Dayton’s gay-straight alliance.

The event wasn’t the first time the University has promoted the Rubi Girls on campus. A documentary about the group was screened on campus in 2012, and a workshop featuring the troupe was held in 2014.

The Newman Society asked the program organizer for more information about the purpose of this event and its value for students, especially in terms of the Catholic mission of the University. The organizer was also asked if the event would challenge Church teaching on gender and human sexuality, and if any speakers would be there to explain and defend Church teaching.

“This was an educational program — not a show — with learning outcomes that included an educational discussion,” University officials responded. “The program did not challenge Church teaching; it examined an artistic expression in our culture and conveyed a strong message about appreciation for and respecting of human dignity.”

The University also stated that the event “allowed students to explore experiences of those who may differ from them, and reflect on what it means to treat each human with dignity and respect.” Many other Catholic, and even non-Catholic, colleges have found ways to teach students that all people should be treated with dignity and respect without having them watch men explain and undergo the “transformative process of a drag queen.”

In response to a follow-up request for more specifics about the educational content of the program, University officials stated:

The educational event included dialogue about the local group and its 30-year history and its creativity and artistic expression, along with the challenges they have ​faced. Discussion included their charitable work, which has included raising more than $1 million for AIDs and HIV research and related causes, their awards for community service and the support they have received from family, friends and the community. The educational discussion focused on this form of artistic expression and a broader understanding of diversity and respect.

Officials explained how the event fit within the University’s Catholic mission by offering a statement on the dignity of every human person:

As a Catholic, Marianist university, the University of Dayton embraces the conviction that every person has innate dignity because all people are made in the image and likeness of God. This conviction is rooted in the Catholic Catechism: “The dignity of the human person is rooted in [the person’s] creation in the image and likeness of God; it is fulfilled in [the person’s ] vocation to divine beatitude. . . . The divine image is present in every person. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves.” Guided by our Catholic and Marianist values, we cultivate a campus environment where the dignity of each person is respected and valued, and each person is a full member of the community.

The language used by University of Dayton officials to condone the “drag culture” event is similar to statements made by the University of San Diego (USD) when it defended drag show performances on campus described as scandalous by the Vatican.

USD defended a drag show performance on campus in 2013 saying: “The show as scheduled violates neither the university’s mission nor any university policies. The Celebration of Gender Expression supports the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person and does not promote either behavior or lifestyle that is contrary to the teachings of the Church.” In 2012, then-USD President Mary Lyons stated the drag show event that year was “intended to foster students’ understanding of, and empathy for, the complexities of gender non-conformity.”

In 2014, the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education issued a letter about the drag shows at USD stating that the performances have caused “scandal.”

“[I]n view of the gravity of the case, it is worth mentioning that in light of the show and the scandal that it caused, this congregation intends to act through administrative channels to the competent ecclesiastical authority in San Diego,” the Congregation wrote, responding to a petition to review the situation filed by USD alumni. Despite the Vatican Congregation’s statement, USD held the drag show again in April 2015.

This time of year is somewhat of a “drag show season” on college campuses. The Newman Society has documented a number of drag events at Catholic colleges in recent years, including at Seattle University, College of St. Rose, Georgetown University, Gonzaga University, LeMoyne College, the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Minnesota. The Society has been monitoring advertisements of similar events in 2016, and will be publishing further reports in the near future.

While it’s true that every person has an inviolable dignity and value, recognition of that dignity can’t be used as an excuse for condoning harmful or potentially harmful behaviors.

“By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity” as a man or a woman, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith describes sexual differences as “a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman” that are not “only on the physical level, but also on the psychological and spiritual.”

Young people are already facing intense pressure from our secularized culture to divorce a proper understanding of gender from biological sex. Events that in any way further legitimize and encourage this misunderstanding have no place on Catholic college campuses.
Does exploring “drag culture” really draw students closer to God? It would be far more beneficial for students, and much more in line with the evangelizing mission of Catholic colleges, to always focus on what the Church teaches regarding God’s plan for gender and human sexuality in any attempt to explore and understand these issues.

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