The Open Door Club, Bucks’ LGBT student group, hosted the event, which raised more than $800 for Bucks Villa, a group home for those who are HIV-positive or living with AIDS.
Despite the fundraising and turnout of about 120, the event was criticized by Bucks County Courier Times columnist J.D. Mullane and in an editorial in the paper.
Club advisor Professor Max Probst, who teaches sociology at the college, said Mullane also reacted negatively to a sex-ed event the Open Door Club hosted in the past.
The Open Door Club is 25-members strong and, despite nerves, about 10 students performed on stage at the inaugural event. The show was funded by the club’s own fundraising efforts, such as through its annual LGBT Prom, and the group also receives funding from the Student Government Association.
In the Courier Times’ Nov. 23 editorial, the writer questioned the event’s “appropriateness,” stating that the show was full of “foul language and sexual references” and that “the festivities would have seemed more at home in a strip bar.”
Probst said that, although there was minimal adult language from the emcee, the event was typical of a college drag show.
Shay Hoppe, president of The Open Door Club, said she was surprised by the Courier Times’ coverage.
“My reaction when I first read the articles was that they didn’t even focus on the fact that it was a fundraiser. Everything was about how inappropriate things were. [Mullane] took things that nobody else paid attention to and turned it into this big blow-up,” she said.
Mullane’s column at one point stated that there was a child in the room.
“The show was advertised as ‘Mature Audiences ONLY!’ but this did not stop the geniuses running the gate from permitting three young women from bringing a child, perhaps 2 years old, into the auditorium. They took front-row seats,” Mullane wrote.
Hoppe said she did not see any children at the show.
“Nobody remembers seeing a child walk in,” she said.
Probst said the students were upset by the tone and focus of the coverage.
“They were actually feeling pretty defeated in a way because the way they saw the event happen was very different than it was reported. It was just a misrepresentation from the media but the students are very strong people,” he said. “They worked really hard. They actually began the planning process in the beginning of the semester. The students who were performing were very nervous but proud of themselves when they were able to get up and do it,” he said.
Hoppe agreed and said the members invested a lot into the production.
“A lot of them had stage fright but they ultimately went up and performed and did what they thought was right,” she said.
Probst said both the article by Mullane and the editorial were the only unsupportive feedback they have received.
According to Probst, the campus community is very accepting when it comes to its LGBT population and The Open Door Club, and many have gone on to defned the club in Courier Times’ online postings.
“We have very supportive staff and administrators on campus. Bucks passed same-sex benefits a year ago,” he said. “Our club is very active and out LGBT faculty and staff come to our events and are very supportive.
Hoppe concurred with that assessment.
“Everybody that we talked to has said it was amazing and a lot of fun. They asked if we were doing it again next year,” she said.
Probst said he will support the students should they want to stage another show — and Hoppe said the articles have not deterred the organization from doing so.
“It made us want to have a bigger and better one next year,” she said.