Newton

Counterprotesters Heavily Outnumber Those Rallying for Cancelation of Drag Show in Newton

At a planned protest Thursday in Newton, Massachusetts, about a dozen people showed up — some from out of town and even out of state — to call for the cancelation of a drag show Friday at Newton North High School; more than 100 people came out to support the school's decision

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About a dozen people protested Thursday in Newton, Massachusetts, calling for the cancellation of a drag performance at a high school — but a much larger counterprotest stole the show.

The drag performance Friday at Newton North High School is part of Transgender, Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Awareness Day, or ToBeGlad Day.

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More than 100 people came out to support the school's decision.

"This year, we thought it would be really cool to have a drag show, because it's just kind of a fun event, especially for the LGBTQ students at North," explained Newton North High School junior Amiya Smith, who helped plan it. "We vetted the performance and we made sure that it was completely appropriate for a teenage audience."

"To Be Glad Day has been going on for over 20 years. I myself have spoken twice at Newton South High School," explained Holly Ryan, a Ward 8 Newton City Councilor. "Being a transgender woman and now a city councilor, I speak about the legitimacy of my community. That we can be anything. We can do anything. We can rise to any level."

Newton North High School's principal announced earlier this week that students are not required to attend the event, and if they don't want to, they can instead go to the cafeteria.

Still, some protesters drove in from outside of the city — and in some cases, out of the state — arguing that the performance is not age-appropriate.

"I think it's fine for adult entertainment, and it may well be art, but it's always been art for adults," said Stephen Scaer, a protester who drove down to Newton from Nashua, New Hampshire. "The drag show at the school is just part of that ideology that boys and girls aren't fine as they are, they aren't beautiful as they are, they need to be permanently changed."

"I don't think drag shows should be demonstrated at the school. There are places for that and there are places for more useful subjects, like physics math and history," said protester Svetlana Shaknovich of Brookline.

Many of those who attended said they strongly disagreed.

"Newton is an inclusive and tolerant place," said resident Laura Towvim. "We celebrate differences, we want everyone to feel welcome, and I really hope that people will take the time to learn about people who are different than them and learn to celebrate and appreciate them."

NBC10 Boston interviewed the drag performer, Missy Steak, who said Friday's plan is to give a brief speech and sing "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga.

"I am just a person doing a job," said Steak. "I'm an entertainer and this is what we do. We come in and we sing or we dance or we read and we leave. And it's just something we do for fun and bring fun to other people."

The principal said students are not required to attend the performance, which is part of Transgender Bisexual Gay and Lesbian Awareness Day.

"It's not sexual, it's fun. It's art, it's clownery in the most Shakespearian sense," Steak continued. "If you walk away from drag and feel offended, you're allowed to have those feelings, but that's not what the art form is about."

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said in a statement Thursday that some students and teachers had received threats and been the targets of online bullying, and that the Newton Police Department was working to make sure Friday would be a safe day at the high school.

"In Newton, we are a committed to better understanding and celebrating our individuality and diversity," Fuller said in her statement. "As Mayor, I wholeheartedly and proudly support our LGBTQ+ students as they build awareness of and celebrate their identities. This day and this work are important and necessary to create a welcoming and inclusive school community."

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