Students stage drag show in university affiliated church

Emory Pride hosted its annual drag show in a university affiliated Methodist church.

The event was hosted by a non-binary drag queen named Pam.

Emory Pride, a gay pride organization at Emory University, recently held its annual drag show at Glenn Memorial Chapel, a Methodist church affilated with the Georgia university.

The event was intended to commemorate the conclusion of gay history month. 

Tommy Greenler, a senior attending Emory, served as host while dressed in drag. During the show, he went by the stage name “Pam.” Greenler, who hosted the event in 2018 and 2019, posted clips from the event on his Instagram. 

Greenler told Campus Reform that “there is something very subversive about hosting a drag show at a church, especially a Methodist church like Glenn Memorial.”

“The UMC has officially adopted some anti-LGBT stances in recent years,” he continued “but I think it says a lot about Glenn Memorial as an individual church that it has continued to welcome the drag show in their space. 

“I personally think it’s kind of punk, to be a queer person hosting an unapologetically queer event in a church like this — I feel like this kind of breaking barriers is what drag is all about,” Greenler added.

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: University of Arkansas spends $10,000 in student fees on Zoom drag show]

Layla Aberman, president of Emory Pride, told Emory’s student newspaper that “Drag has provided a space for queer expression when homophobia, transphobia and racism make the world unsafe,” and that “Drag is about family.”

In addition to a drag show, hip hop dance performances and a costume contest were also held. During the event, church podiums were covered in transgender and gay pride flags.

Students were incentivized to attend and participate in the show by the $270 in prizes made available, the majority of which was cash. Admission to the event was free, though attendees were encouraged to make a $20 donation to a gay advocay organization at the door. 

Glenn Memorial Chapel hosted the same event in 2019, though not in 2020 due to COVID-19. At the 2019 event, songs such as “My Neck, My Back (Lick It)” and “Run the World (Girls)” were played.

[RELATED: University students will learn about ‘Queer Feelings’ & ‘activist skills’ this fall]

Glenn Memorial has a history of gay activism. When the United Methodist Church held a vote to affirm traditional marriage two years ago, Glenn Memorial’s head pastor, Mark Westmoreland, wrote a letter to the editor in the Emory Wheel expressing his disagreement with it.

“Glenn Memorial and our many allies continue to stand and work with our LGBTQ siblings for full rights and rites,” he wrote. “I know change is coming, and I believe it is coming soon.”

Campus Reform reached out to Westmoreland regarding his church hosting a drag show; this article will be updated accordingly.

Greenler told Campus Reform that he had never heard any objections to the drag show being hosted at the church in the three years he’s hosted the event. He “did hear some concerns about the presence of religious imagery in the church the night of the show,” but said it “didn’t seem to affect the energy of the show.”

“In some ways, I think it is an opportunity for Glenn Memorial to show solidarity with the LGBT community despite the UMC’s official stance,” Greenler continued.

In addition to its history of activism and “support of LGBTQ rights”, Glenn Memorial’s website includes over 1,200 words dedicated to discussing “racial justice” and “LGBTQI+ inclusion”. At the end of its LGBTQI+ inclusion page, it encourages members of its congregation to march in Atlanta’s 2021 gay pride parade.

Campus Reform has reached out to every individual mentioned in this article and Emory University for comment. 

Follow the author: @RobertSchmad