LGBTQ+ Pride at Rainbow Rave Conference


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

The annual Rainbow Rave conference and drag show was held on Saturday Nov. 19. The event was sponsored by the History Club, Alliance, History Department, Doyle Center and Gay Studies Program. The morning was dedicated to the conference from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Doudna Hall, and the drag show was held in the evening from 7:30 to 10:30pm in Ullsvik Hall.

The Rainbow Rave conference and drag show brought awareness to the LGBTQ+ community and their presence throughout history as well as celebrated their progress and culture. All students were welcome to attend and learn more about the LGBTQ+ community. 

The conference began with a session hosted by the History Club and sponsored by the History Department. Isabelle Emerson, an English Education and Theatre major, gave a presentation called “Medieval Queer.”

To start the presentation, Emerson defined “queer” as an umbrella term that refers to anyone who is not cisgender or “everybody but the norm.”  

Although this term did not exist during the Middle Ages, queerness was prevalent and portrayed through literature, especially in the lais of Maria de France, such as, “Bischvert” about a shapeshifting werewolf and “Yonuec” about a man who becomes a woman and still receives blessings from the church.   

“Being queer isn’t a new phenomenon, but the words describing it are,” Emerson said about the LGBTQ+ community.

After Emerson, Social Sciences mojor Jacob Mahlkuch and History Education major Reece Pockat, presented on the oppression the LGBTQ+ community faced in Weimar and Nazi Germany. 

Mahlkuch and Pockat explained the history of Penal Code 175 which was passed in 1871. He said “conduct against nature” was illegal, but male-to-male intercourse and bestiality had to be witnessed for one to be arrested. The Nazis revised the law, leading to a large spike in arrests of homosexuals. Eventually, these homosexuals were imprisoned in concentration camps, and many became victims of the Holocaust.  

A pink triangle was placed on prisoners’ clothing in the concentration camps to signify they were homosexual, which would lead to mistreatment and constant harassment from other prisoners and guards. Notably, in LGBTQ+ communities, the Pink Triangle has become a symbol of identity and resistance. 

Bailey Watson, a History major, then presented on the Cold War era when the United States accused fellow Americans of working with the Russians. According to Watson, the more well-known “Red Scare” that sought to persecute supposed communists was accompanied by a “Lavender Scare” that also led to the persecution of members of the LGBTQ+ community.

After the History Club panel, the keynote speaker for the conference was Matt Cunningham, Assistant Professor of Radio/Podcasting and faculty adviser of WCRX at Columbia College in Chicago. Cunningham’s presentation, “Queer Audio Diaries: Personal, Political, and Podcasted,” amplified LGBTQ+ voices and where to look for them.  

Cunningham shared his 20 years of experience in broadcast journalism and podcasting. In particular, he explained his own coming out in the early 1990s and reason for moving to Chicago from Kansas, where he was originally from. 

Cunningham explained that in Chicago, there were queer cafés and gay newspapers for the LGBTQ+ community; however, this was centrally located in Chicago. LGBTQ+ individuals outside of Chicago did not have the same experience, but could tune into radio station 14.70 WCFJ  if they lived within its broadcasting area to listen to LesBiGay, a locally produced LGBTQ+ community radio program.

“This was great for us but also for the surrounding areas who didn’t get the newspaper. They could listen to us talk about living our authentic life,” Cunningham said. He also explained how podcasting is different from other types of news or entertainment, because the audience and viewers can seek out podcasts that interest them and create a personal connection. Cunningham continued, “It’s you connecting with them.” 

Cunningham introduced the audience to various podcasts from LGBTQ+ voices and supporters. There were podcasts discussing LGBTQ+ history, films, body positivity and the student experience.

The conference concluded with a panel of drag performers explaining their experiences and answering questions posed by a moderator. The presenters used their stage names: Ja’Nyiah Moné Diamond-Banx$, Miss Jaide and Khrisstyle. They were also part of the drag show later in the evening.

The questions all focused on beginnings and what motivated them to start drag. For most of them, drag was something that they knew of but never tried until, opportunity presented itself. 

Miss Jaide said he has been performing for 17 years, and it all began at his job when he worked as a shot boy at a club. All the shot boys were allowed to do a number in drag. After his first exposure, he entered into competitions and was eventually named Miss Davenport. Now he does not compete as much, but instead hosts shows in his hometown, giving others opportunities to express themselves in this artform.

Ja’Nyiah Moné Diamond-Banx$ discovered drag after she was kicked off her dance team. She later competed in drag competitions and won the Miss Four City and the Miss USA Wisconsin Newcomer titles.

Khrisstyle said he had always been a dancer and, “always loved the stage but never knew where to go” with it. He started as a background dancer for other drag queens before performing solo.

Some of the best and hardest parts of being a drag queen were keeping up with their aesthetic, according to Khrisstyle and Miss Jaide. Ja’Nyiah Moné Diamond-Banx$ also mentioned that there is an expected way to behave or present oneself along with keeping one’s composure during stressful situations.

Surprisingly, the drag queens expressed dislike for the hit show “Rupaul’s Drag Race” because they felt that it gave a skewed representation of traditions of drag and the drag community. Ja’Nyiah Moné Diamond-Banx$ said that it took away the old-school skills and changed the look of drag altogether. Miss Jaide added that “drag is art, so it’s subjective,” but the show had celebrity judges rather than other drag queens who knew about the artform and would offer better critiques and commentary.

Later in the evening, the Alliance hosted a drag show in Velzy Commons in Ullsvik Hall. This was the University’s thirteenth annual drag show with 312 people in attendance. There were 12 performers, including Miss Mercedes Yvonne Diamond, who had competed on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”