A recent drag event at the University of Wollongong, has helped the city edge closer to becoming a safe queer space, according to a local entertainer and event organiser.
Lauren Order, who organises several on-campus events including Dragatondra and Drag Bingo, said they’re an important part of making the queer community of Wollongong feel accepted.
“It is just another stakeholder that the queer community has in Wollongong to have a place where we can slowly build and retreat to, when things get tough in Wollongong,” Lauren Order said.
“I was trying to create spaces that I desperately needed as a queer person at that time, and I tried creating those spaces for the person I used to be growing up, and I wanted to find myself and the rest of the community and didn’t know where to look”
LGBTIQ+ Health Australia figures have revealed that LGBTQ community members are disproportionately affected when it comes to mental health, with 32% of homosexual/bisexual people aged over 16 experiencing anxiety disorder and 48.1% of gender diverse 14-25 people having attempted suicide at least once in their life.
Lauren order said the Wollongong community can be unaccepting at times, but said they wanted to ensure people, that there are places like Dragatondra where people feel like they can be themselves.
“Wollongong itself isn’t very queer-friendly especially when you do walk down the street. I’ve experienced it; so many of my other friends experience it a lot more than I do,” Lauren Order said.
“People say things and yell things, and here is a place without any of that.”
UOW Student, Bailee Smith, who regularly attends Dragatondra, said that they have also experienced discrimination from the UOW community.
“We saw how the rainbow steps got graffitied a couple of months ago,” Bailee said.
Bailee said that despite this, Wollongong has a thriving drag scene with great diversity.
“I think Wollongong has some of the best drag scenes I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been all around Australia,” they said.
Another Dragatondra event is scheduled for the 21st of July, at the UOW UniBar.