Cultural explorations broaden our horizons


By Emma Goodwin

After craving sushi for weeks, my friends and I were ecstatic upon discovering it would be served at PAR’s late night dinner on April 24. But there was one catch.

The sushi, along with other around-the-world themed food, was served in conjunction with a drag show by the Urbana South Sexuality and Gender Alliance, a group that aims to be welcoming and inclusive to all people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. I had never been to a drag show, and it seemed a little weird to see one while I ate dinner, but my friends and I were interested to see what it would be like. Though I was unsure of what the show would entail at first, it turned out to be a great experience I would have regretted missing.

The sushi was fine, the dining hall was filled with excitement and the drag show was really fun — it was almost like a big party. I had never been to an event like that, despite the fact that the Illini Union had held drag shows in the past. The dining hall drag show united a large group of students and showcased members of the USSGA, the LGBTQ community and especially drag culture.

An open environment that promotes activities like these is important, especially at a large university. Even if you stand behind a personal affiliation, there is no escaping the fact that other beliefs and ideals exist in different communities. For this reason, I encourage others to explore different cultures, like I did by attending the show.

By doing so, people might even encounter ideals they identify and agree with.

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    There is always room for us to grow and change our opinions on different social cultures, especially as young people.

    Before attending the USSGA-hosted drag show, I had no idea what drag culture was, what it looked like — anything. I knew this show had to do with the LGBTQ community because it was put on by the USSGA, but that was it. The main reason I knew so little was because it had never directly affected me in any way, even though I support the rights of the community and am friends with people who are a part of it.

    I will never know everything or be able to fully empathize with the social issues involving people from groups that I am not specifically a part of, but I want to understand different cultures and different struggles in society, and the best way to do that is to experience their respective cultures.

    Reading about different people, issues and cultures is beneficial, but trying to fully experience it teaches you much more than words on a page ever could — so by attending an event revolving around drag culture, I was able to learn more about it than if I hadn’t experienced it directly.

    It’s similar to how Pi Patel decided to learn about each religion by starting to practice them in Life of Pi, or how Uncle Jesse wore a pregnancy suit to better understand his wife’s struggles in Full House.

    Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. If they don’t fit or if you don’t like them, just don’t buy the pair.

    Getting involved in drag events like the one hosted by the USSGA is definitely not the only way to better understand different cultural communities, but it’s a start. Banding together with other people who are a part of it or who support it fosters a sense of community, togetherness and overall encouragement. I walked away from the drag show feeling more understanding of the group, simply because I celebrated with them in a really fun way at one event. That kind of togetherness isn’t replicated simply by reading an article or seeing media portrayals about social communities on the Internet.

    Attending events like drag shows and other cultural programs won’t give us all of the information that we need to identify and connect with other cultures, but it can make us more informed. Once we get involved in different cultures, we better understand all walks of life and we can speak from a place of knowledge, not ignorance.

    Not only that, but attending these kind of events can push you beyond your comfort zone.

    Staying within our comfort zones is ultimately limiting to the way we perceive the world and the people around us. When we choose to expand it, we broaden our horizons and the way we think about current issues. To understand all of the interweaving parts of society — even all of the diverse parts of this school — it is crucial to experience them in some way.

    The drag show was fun, fierce and fearless.

    And while other cultural events around campus might not be as loud, glamorous or well catered, they will probably be just as enlightening.

    Emma is a freshman in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].