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Drag drama around Hill with Seattle University censorship, Queer/Bar’s Turner on ‘personal leave’ — UPDATE

The Spectator cover photo. Now everybody has seen it.

There’s a backlash at Seattle University over how its Jesuit leaders reacted to the school’s annual drag show making front page news in the campus paper. Meanwhile, one of Capitol Hill’s highest profile drag queens is also making news.

At the 12th Ave Seattle U campus, The Spectator was forced to report on itself this week after copies of the student newspaper featuring a colorful but definitely safe for school work photo from the drag event started mysteriously disappearing. That mystery was later solved with a letter from an angry English professor, the paper reports:

“I was offended by a recent edition of The Spectator, whose cover contained what I considered an inappropriate risqué photograph. A few days after the publication of that edition, I took the liberty of removing the few remaining copies of the paper from newsstands in Bellarmine lobby, the Library, and Pigott. Students and faculty had already picked up most of the copies, but I was concerned about the arrival of new students and their families for Accepted Students Decision Day. I deeply regret this action and have no further comments.”

University president Father Stephen Sundborg is facing criticism for his response to the photograph — and the censorship.

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“I thought it was indecent,” Sundborg told the paper. “I thought it offended all dignity and respect of sexuality and of persons of bodies. I think it was a mistake on the part of the editorial staff to put that on the cover. I was offended by it… Anybody who would see that who has a sense of propriety would find that offensive.”

CHS has asked the school’s communications representative about the situation and any plans for the school to further address what happened with The Spectator issue. The wide attention has challenged the school paper’s web servers. If the site is not available, you can view a cached version of the article here.

UPDATE 5:05 PM: In a letter sent Thursday to the campus, Sundborg expressed deep regret that “some in our community feel harmed” by his comments to the paper.

“I will remain firmly committed to seeing our work through and making sure every student and member of our campus community feels accepted, valued and respected at Seattle University,” he writes. “Our actions must reflect our commitment and they will speak louder than our words.”

The full message is below:

I understand some in our community feel harmed by comments I made in this week’s Spectator and are questioning the value I place on LGBTQ members of our community. I deeply regret that and am sincerely sorry that is the case.

Some students and community members were disappointed and offended by what I said. Some were hurt by what I said. Some wondered why I felt a need to say anything on the topic. In no way did I intend to be critical of the person in the picture or of any other member of our community.

As a campus community, we have made a strong commitment to inclusive excellence and working to make sure everyone at Seattle feels a sense of belonging. I believe in and remain committed to this important work we began a few years ago.

I am grateful for all that is happening on this strategic priority of diversity and inclusion and know we have much work that remains. We are all learning through this process, including me. I will remain firmly committed to seeing our work through and making sure every student and member of our campus community feels accepted, valued and respected at Seattle University. Our actions must reflect our commitment and they will speak louder than our words.

I welcome and encourage further dialogue within our community and look forward to being a part of it.


Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.

Drag drama at  Queer/Bar
Capitol Hill’s Queer/Bar, in the middle of drag drama of its own, has banned Sundborg until he makes and apology and gets “some sensitivity training.” It’s a promotional joke, of course. More serious is Queer/Bar’s response to a strange episode on social media involving a big part of the new venue’s weekend entertainment bill.

Queer/Bar announced Thursday that Robbie Turner will be taking” a personal leave from his role as Queer/Bar’s Entertainment Director and weekly drag show host.”

“We sincerely hope that this time will be used well to focus on this health and wellness,” the Queer/Bar statement reads. “We will continue to ensure he has access to adequate resources to help him succeed.”

Last Sunday, Turner posted a bizarre message on Twitter about his brush with death in a DUI collision following his show at Queer/Bar in which his Uber driver reportedly died:

Internet fact checkers swung into action. Uber said it wasn’t aware of any such incident. There were not fatality crashes in the Capitol Hill area that night, CHS can report. “In full support of our friend and manager, we reached out to evaluate Robbie’s condition and offer any help with his physical and mental recovery,” the Queer/Bar statement reads. “We also reached out in an attempt to support the driver’s family in their difficult time. And then we discovered some inconsistencies with the story.”

Queer/Bar opened in October with Turner playing a significant role in the venue’s entertainment schedule as a producer and as a performer with weekend shows. Queer/Bar says it does not anticipate “his departure from the company” affecting “our entertainment programing.”

In 2013, CHS reported on an assault on the performer amid a wave of hate crime in the area.

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