Petitions Duke It Out Over Drag Show


Fordham’s first ever drag show was met with criticism from conservative forces outside the university. (COLIN SHEELEY/THE OBSERVER)


On Wednesday, Oct. 10, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) launched a petition, which reached over 13,000 signatures, to stop the drag show hosted by the Rainbow Alliance and Fashion for Philanthropy clubs at Fordham Lincoln Center (FLC). On Saturday, Oct. 13, a group of Fordham University alumni created a counter-petition to show support for both Fordham’s LGBTQ students and for the student drag show. To that effect, the show occured without incident on Friday, Oct. 19, despite fears of a potential protest from members of TFP Student Action, the organization’s university outreach.

The counter-petition campaigns for “Rams to join us in enthusiastically and unequivocally supporting LGBTQ Month at Fordham by signing [the] petition.” In addition, they hope to use the counter-petition as a springboard to raise funds for Fordham LGBTQ groups like PRIDE Alliance and Rainbow Rams.

The team behind the counter-petition had learned about the TFP petition when it was linked to an online discussion forum frequented by Fordham alumni. Joe Campagna, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’15, came up with the idea of launching the counter-petition in order to show solidarity in the face of TFP.

“It started very much as an organic thing,” Campagna said. “There was this immediate sense that we wanted to do something that would unify the Fordham community and that we could use this debacle and turn it into something good rather than a dark day for Fordham.”

Phil Fraietta, FCRH ’11, expressed his disgust with the TFP petition: “Just the idea that they would think that they have the right to silence members of the Fordham community really troubled me.”

Similarly, Melissa Ingala, FCRH ’15, said, “We felt that it was important to broadcast the support of students and recent alumni.” She mentioned the importance of Fordham’s Jesuit values and how she believed TFP’s petition violated them. “From the very moment you walk onto campus as a prospective student, the president and the administration are very much about the idea of Cura Personalis,” she said. “And we found that this petition was completely at odds with the culture of [the] campus and the ideals of Cura Personalis. We felt that it was important to reaffirm our roots in the Fordham community and that we treat our friends and colleagues with mutual understanding.”

David Emami, FCRH ’14, echoed these statements: “We all know bigotry exists and what’s shocking is to see it cloaked in the words of the Church. [They are] using the Catholic faith as a shield for bigotry.”

Mary Kate Cervin, FCRH ’15, is currently a religion teacher in Boston and is studying at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry. After Campagna started the petition, Cervin began spreading the word around social media and other Fordham alumni about its existence. “My Jesuit values that I learned at Fordham instilled in me to be inclusive of all people and who they are through Cura Personalis,” she said. “They are taking something out of our religion, twisting it really badly and claiming for it to be genuine love for the person when they’re just being hateful towards the identity of the person.”

Having studied Catholicism extensively, she also gave a theological perspective on the issue: “I think that [TFP looks] at theology very black and white and Jesuits have always looked at theology and Catholicism as a gray matter, that we need to follow our conscience.”

James Demetriades, FCRH ’15, was the vice president of the PRIDE Alliance club for most of his time at Fordham. He explained that he had been bullied his freshman year for being gay, which provided him with a personal stake in making sure that LGBTQ students have a safe environment at Fordham. “The [TFP] petition is actively advocating for the suppression and oppression of a minority group,” he said. “I think Fordham has a responsibility to support all of its students and to provide spaces for all of its students. Fordham can both support students of faith and support LGBTQ students. They’re not mutually exclusive.”

“God created us all in His image and that includes our LGBTQ brothers and sisters,” Campagna said. “If we’re a Catholic university and we’re going to espouse that we were all created in the image of a loving God, then we’ve got to practice what we preach.”

John Ritchie, the director of TFP Student Action, explained his organization’s motive for the petition: “Promoting a drag show for those tempted by a lustful lifestyle is like promoting drugs for those who suffer from drug addiction,” he said. “The pro-homosexual drag show is morally unacceptable. No Catholic campus should ever sponsor events that legitimize lifestyles that violate nature, deeply offend God and tear apart the moral fabric of authentic Catholic education.”

In addition, he spoke of his disdain for those behind the drag show and for the LGBTQ community at large: “To promote ‘pride’ for any sinful lifestyle cuts at the root of Catholic education, because St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that pride is an act of contempt for God. Pride is the sin of Lucifer.” He was also sure to note that history is on his side, saying, “For 2,000 years the Church has vanquished error and sin. Now it’s our turn to stand firm and renew our fidelity to the law of God and our devotion to the Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church.”

Meanwhile, Campagna had only praise for those behind the drag show. “We think what they’re doing is terrific,” he said. “We want them to know that they have our support and the support of a whole lot of Fordham Rams.”

Now, the goal of Campagna and his cohorts is to try to amass more signatures than the original petition. “TFP has an army of folks who are ready to sign every petition out there,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Campagna and his team launched a GoFundMe page on Oct. 18 with three goals: to ensure that the drag show “is packed with Rams,” to raise $25,000 for LGBTQ organizations at Fordham and to show TFP “that inclusion and love unites people more than discrimination and exclusion.”