Update (March 22, 4:47 p.m.)
Keygan Miller, the public training manager for The Trevor Project, provided the following statement to MyHighPlains.com surrounding the letter, stating:
“Drag is for everybody. While drag has a special place in LGBTQ culture, people of all backgrounds and genders have been using it as an art form to express ideas for centuries. Since Shakespeare, drag has been a vehicle of entertainment, creative self-expression, celebration, and inclusive community building. As drag has gained heightened visibility in mainstream culture and media in recent years, it is disheartening to see it receive unnecessary backlash as political leaders mischaracterize it, misrepresent it, and in some cases, attempt to legislate it out of existence. These actions not only stigmatize drag culture, but anyone in the queer, transgender and nonbinary community who simply wants to live authentically as they are.”
Update (March 21, 4:04 p.m.)
In an additional petition, posted Tuesday on the Conservative Change website, students with the Young Conservatives of Texas’s West Texas A&M University branch, as well as other community members, are voicing their support for Wendler, stating that they “Stand with Dr. Wendler and WTAMU to ban drag shows on campus.”
In the petition, which as of around 4 p.m. Tuesday has 215 signatures, the community member is asking the public to sign the petition to “encourage Dr. Wendler and WTAMU to not be swayed by the angry voices of those who are opposed to the truth about drag shows.”
“We are not alone in our fight for true freedom and we must support those who are seeking to defend it,” the webpage reads.
Update (March 21, 11:20 a.m.)
MyHighPlains.com reached out to officials with West Texas A&M University, asking for clarification on how Wendler’s letter lines up with approved expressive activity on campus rules from member academic institutions of the Texas A&M University System.
According to documents found on West Texas A&M University’s website, this comes after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 18, adding a clause of “Protected Expression on Campus” to the Texas Education Code, intending to “insure that all persons may peaceably assemble on campuses of institutions of higher education for expressive activities.”
In section 1.3 of the system’s “Expressive Activity on Campus” document, it states:
“The university may not take action against a student organization or deny the organization any benefit generally available to other student organizations at the university on the basis of a political, religious, philosophical, ideological, or academic viewpoint expressed by the organization or of any expressive activities of the organization.”
In response to this request for comment, officials with the university said that they would provide “no further comment due to pending litigation.”
MyHighPlains.com has also reached out to officials with the Texas A&M University System regarding this letter. The TAMU System has not returned the request for comment.
Update (March 21, 10:37 a.m.)
Members of the community have started a petition on Change.Org, raising awareness for the reinstatement of the drag show mentioned in Monday’s letter from Wendler.
According to the petition, the community member who started the petition stated that “the shunning of this performance constitutes an indirect attack on the LGBT+, feminist and activist communities of the WTAMU student body…”
“We, the students of WTAMU, hope to bring this issue to Dr. Wendler’s attention and urge him to reinstate the drag show on-campus,” the petition reads. “We are holding this drag show whether we have his support or not, but his extreme lack of compassion for the LGBT+ and activist student population on campus shows with this latest e-mail.”
As of around 10:30 a.m. Monday, more than 2,300 community members have signed the online petition.
Update: (March 21, 6:40 a.m.)
CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – According to a social media post from Open and Affirming Congregations of the Texas Panhandle, which phrased Wendler’s letter as “disappointing and infuriating,” West Texas A&M University students are expected to demonstrate throughout the week at 12 p.m. each day beside the campus fountain.
The organization noted that demonstrators “would appreciate support from any allies and community members able to join them.”
CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — In a letter sent to students, faculty and staff at West Texas A&M University on Monday that was obtained by MyHighPlains.com, West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler announced that a planned drag show for later this month will not happen, stating his view that drag shows exaggerate and stereotype women in “cartoon-like extremes.”
According to a post on the university’s Spectrum student organization’s Instagram, a student organization for the university’s LGBTQIA+ students and allies, the group, along with a number of other student organizations, was recruiting for an upcoming drag show scheduled for March 31.
In his letter, Wendler said that an event was advertised for March 31 as an effort to raise money for The Trevor Project. According to its website, The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization that centers around suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth.
Wendler said in the letter that he believes drag shows do not preserve “a single thread of human dignity,” stating that it discriminates against womanhood.
“WT endeavors to treat all people equally. Drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent,” Wendler said in the letter. “Such conduct runs counter to the purpose of WT. A person or group should not attempt to elevate itself or a cause by mocking another person or group. As a university president, I would not support “blackface” performances on our campus, even if told the performance is a form of free speech or intended as humor. It is wrong. I do not support any show, performance or artistic expression which denigrates others—in this case, women—for any reason.”
Wendler goes on to say that mocking or objectifying members “of any group based on appearance, bias or predisposition is unacceptable.” At the end of the letter, Wendler cites the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s purpose, stating that prejudice in the workplace, which Wendler said he believes drag shows are, is “harmful and wholly inappropriate” even if they are not criminal.
“No amount of fancy rhetorical footwork or legal wordsmithing eludes the fact that drag shows denigrate and demean women—noble goals notwithstanding,” Wendler said at the end of the letter. “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. Supporting The Trevor Project is a good idea. My recommendation is to skip the show and send the dough. Offering respect, not ridicule, is the order of the day for fair play and is the WT way. And equally important, it is the West Texas way.”
MyHighPlains.com reached out to Wendler’s office for additional comment surrounding this letter and Wendler’s office refused the request for comment.
Take a look below at Wendler’s full letter:
This is a developing story. MyHighPlains.com will update this article as new information becomes available.
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