University President Prohibits Campus Drag Shows
West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) President Walter Wendler announced that the university would not host a drag show on campus, sparking debate among students and faculty members. Wendler cited concerns that drag performances denigrate women and discriminate against womanhood. The event, organized by the WTAMU Spectrum student organization in collaboration with other campus groups, was intended to raise funds for The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention organization.
Wendler’s decision has stirred controversy, with some accusing him of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. Spectrum responded by stating that drag is not a mockery but a celebration of queerness, gender, acceptance, love, and femininity. They requested Wendler reinstate the drag performance, apologize and step down as university president.
Despite the pushback, Wendler has received support from several parts of the campus community. The Young Conservatives of Texas’ WTAMU branch and other community members initiated a petition to support Wendler’s decision, expressing the belief that drag shows harm women. The petition had garnered 215 signatures at the time of reporting.
Both sides of the debate have utilized the Texas Education Code’s “Protected Expression on Campus” clause to support their arguments. The clause, added after Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 18, intends to ensure that all individuals can peaceably assemble on campuses for expressive activities. The university has declined to comment further on the matter, citing pending litigation.
In his message, Wendler suggested that people send money directly to The Trevor Project, bypassing the drag show. He wrote: “A harmless drag show? Not possible. I will not appear to condone the diminishment of any group at the expense of impertinent gestures toward another group for any reason, even when the law of the land appears to require it.”
Drag shows do not preserve “a single thread of human dignity,” he added.
While the university president’s decision to cancel the event may appear controversial, his stated goal of promoting respect and equality on campus is the focal point of his position.
Some argue that Wendler’s actions align with his responsibility to uphold the values of West Texas A&M University, where respect and fair play are central tenets. By taking a stand against performances that could demean certain groups of people, Wendler emphasizes the importance of fostering an inclusive and respectful environment at the university.