© 2024 Northeast Indiana Public Radio
NPR News and diverse music.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Underwriter Message

Drag Queens perform and discuss coming out at Manchester University

Drag Queens Dixxxie Licious (left) and Neon Van Ryan (right) perform for students Monday at Manchester University ahead of National Coming Out Day.
Ella Abbott
/
WBOI News
Drag Queens Dixxxie Licious (left) and Neon Van Ryan (right) perform for students Monday at Manchester University ahead of National Coming Out Day.

Students gathered in the Cordier Auditorium on Manchester University’s North Campus to watch Neon Van Ryan and Dixxxie Licious, two drag queens and former Manchester students, perform.

Neon Van Ryan danced in a shiny tasseled leotard to a compilation of some of Ariana Grande’s greatest hits. Out of drag, they’re Miro Diamanté, who graduated from the university in 2014 and came out as gay his freshman year.

“I had six straight best friends, I came out to every single one of them. They were all like ‘dude, we know. It’s fine.’ And then, we continued to walk to an off campus event and kinda that was that.”

The event was part of the Values, Ideas and the Arts series, which encourages students to broaden their cultural experiences, provide opportunities to experience the arts and promote dialogue about ideas and values.

The two drag queens were asked to come speak to coincide with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. The holiday was first observed in 1988 on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

Neon Van Ryan started the show with a compilation of Ariana Grande hits, shedding a furry yellow coat to display a sparkly leotard. Van Ryan graduated from Manchester University in 2014.
Ella Abbott
/
WBOI News
Neon Van Ryan started the show with a compilation of Ariana Grande hits, shedding a furry yellow coat to display a sparkly leotard. Van Ryan graduated from Manchester University in 2014.

While Diamanté spoke about the support he found with friends at Manchester University, Brock Ireland, who performs in Fort Wayne as Dixxxie Licious, said his mother was a great source of support when he came out as gay at 13.

“I came to the living room and it was just ‘this is my boyfriend and this is it,’" he said. "And I’m sure she was like ‘oh my god, why?’ And I was like ‘ah, mom, listen this is it.’ 13-years-old and she was like ‘I fully support you, but like you’re 13.’”

Ireland said he always knew he was gay, but his mom was right; he needed to discover himself and was too young then for a relationship.

“But that’s what moms are here for, right?" He said. "To give us those hard lessons and push us somewhat in the right direction, right, mama?”

Ireland’s mother attended the show to watch him perform.

Drag shows and performers have come under fire politically in the past several years, with some states working to implement laws to limit or explicitly ban drag performances.

Tim McKenna-Buchanan is an associate professor of communication studies at Manchester University and was the primary organizer of the event.

He said he thought the event would be both fun and eye-opening for students, because of that politicization of drag queens.

“And so, I thought it’d be important for our students at Manchester to enter that conversation or have those conversations and the fact that both Neon and Dixxxie went to Manchester, it kind of pulled it all together,” he said.

Diamanté said they know what they’re signing up for when they take on a family friendly drag performance and adjusts their act accordingly.

Dixxxie Licious spins in a purple coat and rainbow colored leotard to a Lady Gaga song. Outside of drag, he's Brock Ireland, a former Manchester Student from Wabash, Indiana.
Ella Abbott
/
WBOI News
Dixxxie Licious spins in a purple coat and rainbow colored leotard to a Lady Gaga song. Outside of drag, he's Brock Ireland, a former Manchester Student from Wabash, Indiana.

“My main issue is when families are saying that drag queens are corrupting children and it’s making a political act about it," he said. "Drag is expression, drag is love, drag is fun. That’s what it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be powerful.”

Ireland said he takes more of a private approach to the politics, trying to spread positivity both in his life and on his social media, and not the negatives.

“At the end of the day, we are people just like you," he said. "I am an uncle to two lovely children who I am here for in the world, 10 and seven-years-old, and I am making the world a better place for them.”

He also encourages people to offer grace to others who don’t have the same opinions as them.

"They believe what they believe because of their upbringing and how they were raised," Ireland said. "And, you know, there are some people, they're so hardheaded they’re never gonna change. That’s cool. I hear your opinion, you hear mine, I’m not gonna give you any of my time, because at the end of the day this day is entirely too short. There’s just too much living to do for you to focus on those people.”

Diamanté wants to encourage people to rethink how they view drag. Men dressing as women has gone back as far as Shakespeare, when women weren’t allowed to perform on stage and men were cast to play female roles.

But also, they suggest not to just view drag by the limited definition of dressing up as a woman.

“And, now that we are kind of a little bit more modern, we realize that drag is much more than female impersonation," Diamanté said. "As a matter of fact, I believe that every single one of you when you step out your door, you’re in some type of drag.”

Dixxxie Licious and Neon Van Ryan join a couple Manchester University students on stage to talk about coming out and what doing drag means to them.
Ella Abbott
/
WBOI News
Dixxxie Licious and Neon Van Ryan join a couple Manchester University students on stage to talk about coming out and what doing drag means to them.

He suggested that, because drag is a form of expression through clothing and makeup, when people are picking out an outfit to look sporty or professional, that’s a form of drag itself.

Throughout the panel, the discussion of community came up multiple times, as both the drag community and the larger LGBTQ+ community. Ireland spoke honestly about growing up in Wabash, Indiana in the 90s, when being gay wasn’t as accepted.

But he said finding support and community helped him through.

“So, honey, trust and believe it’s not been easy, but there are people here who support you if you’re going through that same journey," Ireland said. "There’s people in bigger communities that support you as well, so you always have that support anywhere you are.”

Neon Van Ryan performs drag professionally across Indiana and Dixxxie Licious is the Friday night show host at After Dark in Fort Wayne.

Ella Abbott is a multimedia reporter for 89.1 WBOI. She is a strong believer in the ways audio storytelling can engage an audience and create a sensory experience.