I’m From Benton, AR – Video Story.

by Nalley Smith

Today’s Video Story was collected on the 50-state Story Tour. Check out the blog where you can read about the adventure we had and some of the stories we collected. If you haven’t submitted a story yet to IFD, or if you want to submit another one, I’d love to read and publish it. Write one up and send it in.
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My name is Nalley Smith and I’m from Benton, Arkansas. I’m a member and the former president of Prism, which is the GSA at the University of Central Arkansas. We do a lot of events, I do a lot of activism there and I have in the past. One of the most exciting things we probably do is Coming Out Day, which I believe is October 11th and every year we’ve made it our tradition to do a drag show. And our drag show is very controversial because it’s kind of a conservative school, the administration can’t really tell us not to do it; we continue to do it anyway. So we decided that sometimes, things just need to be shaken up, we took it upon ourselves to hire some drag queens, and kings the first year, and we put it on in the courtyard, which is right in front of the student center in the center of campus. We had everyone come out there during X period because everyone’s free during that time, and they performed some songs and it was a huge hit. There were like probably 300 people there, just huge, just like panoramic view, everywhere was full of people it was really exciting. We actually had, the first year that we did this, buttons, t-shirts, y’know, bracelets that say Erase Hate, things like that, to give away or to sell. Apparently there was a high school group there one day, I guess they were touring the campus or something, getting ready to come to college, and what do they see: the courtyard’s full of rainbows, which ya know, we were proud of. So the kids come and they were all shocked, like “Oh my God, are they allowed to do that?”, and some of them were like, “Oh I have so many gay friends and I love this stuff” you know what I mean and they’d get buttons. And some people would be like “Well I’m not gay but do you have a button for me?,” I’d be like “Yeah, absolutely, you’re an ally” and I’d tell them what that meant and they’re like, “Yeah, I’m an ally!”. They were so excited and they had so much energy and it was really inspiring I guess. Some of them, I could tell they wanted to approach and they wouldn’t, they’d be standing off to the side, like “Really want to go over there but everyone’s going to think I’m gay, maybe I am gay and maybe I’m not” you know, it doesn’t matter. They were so excited and they were like, “I can’t wait ‘til I come here, I’m gay” things like that, and I thought that was really exciting just because I don’t know, I felt we were an outlet for them I guess, like they were like “Wow, we’re in high school now and everything’s are weird but look what they can do here, and no one really cares, you can do whatever you want, you can be whoever you want.” Our advisor is pretty high up on UCA’s administration, he was asked, he’s gay, was asked specifically, “Could you ask Prism,” which is the name of the GSA, “to never do that again because it was very suggestive the outfits were suggestive and the entire thing was a little out there.” He was like, “Yeah, sure I can do that” and he came to us and was like “They don’t want you to do that anymore, but I say do it anyway.” And so we did it bigger the next year. We continue to do it every year because I think that it’s really, really to important to get out there and be seen, to be visible. We’re not going to sit back and try to please them when this is something that needs to be seen, this is just a part of self-expression, y’know so why wouldn’t we do this? So we do it for that reason, on principle alone, and because it’s fun.

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