First Campus Drag Show Unveiled 45 Years Ago

‘The end of an age and the beginning of an era”

Photo of a performer at the first campus drag show in May 1975.

Posted May 7, 2020


By LENNY KOUPAL, CSU Communications Coordinator

Back in May 1975, The Reporter’s news story about a new kind of campus show prompted an Editor’s Note to explain the term: drag.

The Ms. Mankato Drag Race that producer Jim Chalgren viewed as a “right of expression” has since become the familiar and ongoing Gender Bender drag show on campus.

But 45 years ago it sparked attention and helped set the course for Chalgren to truly shape a new era.

Two years later, Chalgren founded the Alternative Lifestyles Office – which would later become the LGBT Center. At the time of its opening, the Alternative Lifestyle Office was only the second such campus center in the United States serving the needs of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community.

In 1994, the center was renamed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Center. In 2002, Transgender was officially added to the center’s name – better known today as the LGBT Center.

In 2008, the LGBT Center was dedicated to its founder and LGBT rights activist Jim Chalgren.

The annual Gender Bender drag show continues to pack Ostrander Auditorium. Its precursor was the Ms. Mankato Drag Race which debuted on campus 45 years ago.

A fitting tribute to the courage and determination that set the course for a new era of understanding, awareness and advocacy at Minnesota State Mankato.

Chalgren’s vision continues as the ongoing Gender Bender drag show continues to spotlight the right of expression on campus.

Find out more about the History and Mission of the LGBT Center.


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