Students React to Drag Queen on Campus

The MSU Spokesman

Rockatima comes to Morgan's Student Center
Rockatima comes to Morgan’s Student Center

“Oh, f**k no!” was the first thing that Rockatima heard when she stepped into the Morgan State University canteen for the second time. She turned toward the noise and noticed that a male student, along with his whole table of friends, was laughing while looking at her.

“Did you hear that?” she asked before rolling her eyes and entering the kitchen.

Rockatima had been on Morgan’s campus for the past four hours and that comment was, by far, the most shocking one that she received. She knew that some people wouldn’t be pleased with her appearance, but she didn’t think that they would be so rude and abrasive with their comments.

But let’s go back a few hours to when Rockatima was Jacob Pierce. Pierce, a Texas-born gay male, is a junior at Morgan and Rockatima is his alter ego.

At Pierce’s home at 10 a.m., he had donuts and juice waiting for makeup artist, Keisha Elliott. As she applied his makeup, he talked about his first experience in drag.

“It was Halloween,” he said. “It was a dare.” He pulled out a flipbook that had a few pictures of him dressed as Rockatima, including the photo of his first experience. He looked like he had a great time. The photo was of him and a friend laughing and giggling.

He also talked about his drag mother, Vanessa Gordon. Drag mothers are a mentors for younger drag queens. They take in young drag queens that are not accepted by their families and show them the ropes in the drag world.

Even though Pierce’s mother and siblings are accepting of both Rockatima and Pierce’s homosexuality, he still found solace in Gordon. He met his drag mother through a friend that she was already mentoring. When Pierce began hanging out with him, she decided to take him in and mentor him, as well.

“When I found out that she does shows and makeup,” he said. “I was like ‘Oh, ok. Well, then do my face.’ and so she did my face.”

He liked dressing in drag so much that he began to wonder if he could somehow make Rockatima useful. He would like to find a way to help the gay community in Baltimore while being in drag, but there is one thing that stands in his way.

“They don’t embrace the drag community or gay men here, like they do in DC,” Pierce said when addressing his only issue with making dressing in drag a full time job.

His makeup artist, Keisha Elliott, disagreed. “But they do,” Elliott said. “But it’s only around certain times, like events, like Pride.”

Elliott said that during Baltimore Pride week people show nothing but support to drag queens. When asked why do people accept men in drag during the summer, but not throughout the rest of the year she said, “It’s seasonal and people expect that at Pride.” On regular days, though, people don’t expect that or want to see it, for some reason.

At 11 a.m., Elliott started doing Pierce’s makeup. While getting his makeup done he talked about how worried be was about using the restroom. Since Morgan doesn’t have a unisex bathroom, he would have to choose which bathroom to use and he was nervous about the possible consequences of that choice.

“If I have to go to the bathroom, I’m not gonna go into the men’s bathroom,” Pierce said. “I don’t know how they are gonna respond and I don’t want to get beat up or something like that.”

This scenario never arose while at Morgan because, throughout the whole four hours, Pierce never had to use the restroom.

By 12:20 p.m., Pierce’s makeup was done and he was fully dressed in Rockatima getup and was out the door on his way to Morgan’s campus. By 12:50 p.m., Rockatima had arrived at Morgan’s campus.

The first place that she stopped at was the canteen. On her walk from her car to the canteen she got a few double takes and lots of stares. No out of the ordinary reactions on the walk over, but when she got into the canteen and sat down next to two other students she noticed that as soon as she sat down, they got up.

After spending about five minutes in the canteen, Rockatima decided to walk to the Carl S. Richardson Library to see the reaction she would get there. The reactions were about the same, but she was able to talk to a couple of students to get their views on drag queens.

“It bothers me when it’s obvious that you’re a guy,” said Monet Washington, a Morgan State University freshman, when asked if seeing a man in drag bothered her. “It’s not appealing to watch.”

Washington also had an interesting point of view about which bathroom she thought drag queens should use on Morgan’s campus.

“If it’s obvious he looks like a guy, then he should use the boys bathroom,” Washington said.

Morgan State University junior, Ryan Younger, had a different opinion when asked which bathroom drag queens should use. “He should tell the females in the bathroom what the situation is before hand,” Younger said. “If not, than he should use the men’s since that’s what he is.”

After leaving the library, Rockatima walked to the McMechen Building. Three students walked out of the McMechen building and they were taken aback by Rockatima. One of the boys actually made fun of her. She had been walking around for about an hour and a half by now, so her feet were hurting and when she walked past them one of the guys mimicked her walk.

Rockatima noticed that the students on campus who didn’t agree with her appearance didn’t show their dislike to her face. When she would walk by a group of students they would become really quiet, but when her back was to them they would automatically start whispering and giggling.

“I don’t think we have a lot of open minded students on campus,” said Morgan State University sophomore, Imani Tutt when asked if transgendered men or drag queens would be accepted on campus. “You know, when you see a guy walking around dressed in heels, it’s like ‘why are you walking around dressed in heels?”

She even walked pass two older women who were standing on the bridge. When they first saw her, they looked surprised and quickly went back to their conversation. When she asked if she could ask them a few questions about drag queens, they quickly brushed her off by saying that they didn’t have an opinion and walked away.

By 3:20 pm, Pierce’s feet were killing him and he was starving, so he put Rockatima to rest and called it a day. He walked back to the canteen and ordered himself a piece of grilled chicken, French fries and a small lemonade. He sat at the lunch table and talked about the last few hours.

Some of the reactions he got were hurtful, he says. “Yeah, I mean clearly what just happened with the guy. It’s what was expected, but then again I keep thinking that what if there’s that one person off campus that’s like this.” Referring to any student who may want to dress in drag as well. He wants to let them know that it’s okay to do it on campus.

From the mostly negative reactions of male students at Morgan, Pierce said that it seemed like a man dressed in drag was taboo to them. Whenever Rockatima walked past a male student he would completely ignore her, scurry to the opposite direction or make fun of her in some way.

“It’s so funny how, with the men here, they’ve had to act over masculine,” Pierce said in reference to the male student’s reaction to Rockatima. He felt that they didn’t know how to handle being in Rockatima’s presence, so instead of being open to something new and different their reactions turned negative.

Pierce had doubts about coming to campus dressed in drag, but he stuck it out and enjoyed himself. He knows that everyone isn’t going to be okay with the choices that he makes, but he isn’t going to let anyone else’s close mindedness stop him from doing something that he enjoys, he says. Hopefully, someone saw Rockatima on campus last Thursday and gained hope from her. He had some negative comments, but he also got a whole lot more positive. He even took a picture with a student who was supportive of Rockatima.

Pierce knows that he can’t make everyone happy and he is okay with that. He said as long as his family and friends support him, he could care less about what some random person has to say about him when he is dress up as Rockatima.

Photo by Amira Hairston