Different identities and dancing – all in the name of awareness

There was a mistaken identity. There was even an air of doubt. One spectator asked, “I know I am looking at a man, but is it really a man?”

And then there was utter confusion as one witnessed a clearly dressed woman walking into the man’s bathroom. It was almost too much to comprehend.

But it was true when PRISM held the 2nd Annual Drag Show @ TCNJ, giving members and nonmembers the opportunity to venture into cross-gender dressing. Men dressed as women; women dressed as men. No restrictions.

And they also came dressed with drag names.

One was Ginger Vitis, who strutted around in lingerie. During her stage performance, she embodied the “incognito” of drag as she suggestively danced in front of a male audience member.

On any other day, she is sophomore communications major Ken Reisch.

“I was thinking of names not to name my kid,” he said in reference to the origin of his drag name.

Freshman psychology major Vaughn Brown, with his drag name “Vanessa,” had to borrow his denim skirt and blue tank top outfit from all his “girlfriends.” “The one thing I bought is the wig,” he said.

“Steve Startus,” sophomore journalism major who also goes by the name of Melanie Jodelka, in her cowboy outfit said, “A girl asked if I was really a girl.”

In correspondence with PRISM’s AIDS Awareness Week, the Drag Show was put on to raise money for the Rainbow House in Trenton, which offers a home to females between the ages of 12 and 21 who are HIV positive or have AIDS and to educate on the reality of AIDS.

According to Chris Rivera, associate professor of women’s and gender studies and host of the event, “50 percent of those infected with AIDS/HIV today are young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old.”

Rivera explained that AIDS cannot be summed up in one word, but in two, “blind pandemic.”

“No one is safe,” he said. “The virus is an equal-opportunity infector globally.”

Buckets were passed around to collect money after each performance. All told, PRISM collected over $247 in donations by the end of the night.

Jillian Alvarado, freshman criminology and justice studies major who went by the name “Phil Atio,” said she had a homosexual uncle who died of AIDS.

“It is more common than people think,” she said.

Another fact Rivera provided stressed that, “AIDS is not a gay issue only. Worldwide, women constitute about half of all the people living with HIV, almost 18 million in total.”

“Angie” or Angel Hernandez, PRISM’s AIDS awareness week chair, got onstage and, in a dramatic performance and dance to Madonna’s “Hung Up,” made out with “Bubba,” junior civil engineering major Shannon Murray.

The crowd went wild for it and cameras began snapping away.

Jonelle Beckford, freshman communication major, was the only performer not in drag and sang Christina Aguilera’s ballad, “Walk Away.”

Alexis Becker, junior history secondary education major, said, “Her singing was powerful. I don’t know much about singing, but she matched perfectly with Christina Aguilera, which is a difficult thing to do.”

“This program also exposed its audience to transgender issues such as cross-dressers, drag queens and even transsexuals,” Hernandez said. “I think that by watching people they’ve seen on campus having so much fun in drag, they become comfortable being around it themselves.”