March 22 marks the 19th annual Birdcage event at the Russell House Ballroom. The Birdcage is a drag show featuring local and national talent as well as USC students. The event is hosted by Individuals Respecting Identities and Sexualities (IRIS) in collaboration with Carolina Productions and is the largest non-sporting event at USC.
“It’s such a cool opportunity for the rest of the university, not just people involved in IRIS, to get the opportunity to interact with this different side of a lot of what goes on," IRIS president and second-year political science student Kaitlin McClamrock said. "Drag is something that a lot of students haven’t had any exposure to. It's a really fun part of the LGBT community, honestly.”
The show will feature three headliners from across the country. The lineup includes Delighted Tobehere, Brooke Collins, Latrice Royale, Miss Gaymecock, Miss South Carolina Pride and four local talents. Miss Gaymecock won the honor of being in the show after winning a drag pageant put on by IRIS in the fall. A Mr. Gaymecock was also crowned but he will be unable to attend the event.
The show is more than just an entertaining way to spend a Tuesday night — it sends a message of acceptance throughout campus. In a conservative state like South Carolina, the LGBT community is often underrepresented. The Birdcage brings a large part of that community out into the open and onto campus, where students can fully experience it.
“Drag queens and kings have been involved in LGBT advocacy really from the very beginning. If you look back at the Stonewall Riots, a lot of the people participating in that were drag queens and kings," McClamrock said. "It's just really amazing to see how that has remained such a big part of the LGBT community.”
The show is also partnering with Carolina Equality, the largest LGBT equality group in South Carolina, as well as representatives from the Harriet Hancock LGBT Center, the only LGBT center in the state. These groups will be at the event to spread the word about issues, as well as recruit volunteers to their cause.
Headliner Tobehere is a drag veteran; she has performed on “America’s Got Talent,” among other major stages, and is an active advocate for LGBT rights.
“For well over a decade, this show has been the flagship of USC's vision of inclusivity and diversity," Tobehere said. "Drag is a highly visible and fabulous segment of our LGBT community; one that has entertained millions and carried the banner of pride for decades, celebrating our unique history and our hope filled future.”
While the event is put on mainly for fun, it is impossible to ignore the positive impact it has for students on the campus. Birdcage allows students to entertain their interests and explore a culture that they may be unfamiliar with. Drag culture is becoming more prevalent as shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” become popular, and McClamrock advises students who are new to the scene to check it out if it’s their first time watching this type of show.
The Birdcage will open at 7 p.m. in Russell House Ballroom. It is free to all students, staff and faculty with a CarolinaCard. The show is also on the USC Official Bucket List, so whether drag is your passion or you’re just satisfying a curiosity, The Birdcage is a crazy and unique experience that USC students should not miss.