The normal bustle of the Student Union was interrupted by something no onlooker had ever seen: a drag queen leading a campus tour group.
The tour snaked its way through unsuspecting students as the tour’s orange-wigged guide loudly discussed C3-induced diarrhea before running up the stairs on all fours — exposing her buttocks in the process.
The unconventional guide? Mx. Ology, the garbage-obsessed drag persona of senior theatre major E Lyons.
The intentionally disruptive tour was Lyons’ final project for their performative action class — and Mx. Ology’s last performance as a UB student. “Mx. Ology’s Very Official Campus Tours” were two performances on April 27 and May 8 intended to mimic UB’s sanctioned campus tours. Tour participants met Mx. Ology outside the SU and journeyed through some of the parts of UB not shown on official tours.
After the aforementioned spectacle in the SU, the group marched through Founders Plaza and the surrounding buildings while Lyons continued their partially improvised act. Their tour focused on some of the not-so-enticing parts of life at UB: student opinions of One World Café, infamous UB alum Harvey Weinstein and the legend of the “Lockwood masturbator.”
“Harvey Weinstein’s presence at the school has paved the way for future generations of perverts to walk these hallowed buildings,” Lyons said.
But Lyons wasn’t the only one talking. Throughout the tour, they put attendees on the spot by making them speak into the microphone, sing the “Among Us” theme and move around at Mx. Ology’s command.
Freshman computational linguistics major Lydia Johnston was even saddled with a full trash bag.
“They asked, ‘Does anyone want to carry the garbage?’ and I assumed it would be a thing later on, but it wasn’t,” Johnston said. “I’m glad none of my professors saw me.”
Walking past Slee Hall, Lyons, who is nonbinary, pontificated on the recent presence of conservative speakers Michael Knowles and Riley Gaines.
“If you’re a known transphobe, even a moderately known transphobe, you can speak at Slee Hall, and people will go kind of crazy for you,” Lyons said before returning to their usual goofiness.
Next stop: the bull statue in front of the Center for the Arts. Lyons laid underneath it, demonstrating an invented UB tradition: rubbing the bull’s “penis” to ensure a timely graduation.
The first tour’s bewildering finale came — after a lengthy walk — at the Oozefest mud pits. Mx. Ology instructed the group to close their eyes as they spoke. But the drag queen’s voice became more and more distant until she eventually sprinted away from the group to a waiting getaway car.
They hopped in and drove off without a goodbye, leaving the group reflecting on their experience on the side of the road.
Dasia Cervi, a senior English major foreshadowed Lyons’ departure.
“They got in the car, and I knew they were on the road home, and I knew in my heart of hearts that they were never coming back to this campus ever again,” Cervi said.
The second tour had an equally dramatic finish: Mx. Ology jumped into Lake La Salle.
The lead-up to the performance was also dramatic on a personal level. Lyons said they had trouble sleeping because of the attention the tour garnered, as excitement manifested in their body from the public nature of the tours.
The satirical tours were a way for Lyons to channel their inner-world through drag, a way to thumb their nose at UB administration and, “first and foremost,” a goofy way to entertain students.
“This disruptive force throughout the campus, with good intention, humor and community behind it, is a way to state that just as choices of the school may negatively impact certain students’ lives, there is still space for students to manifest their frustration in ways that are silly,” Lyons said.
Lyons feels UB has fallen short at keeping queer, trans and other students of marginalized identities safe, and said the tour is partly a reflection of that feeling.
“I think that the tour is part of reclamation of physical place at the university before I leave it… I navigated my way through a space that didn’t seem to care for or support me and then found pockets of support,” Lyons said. “There is something really gratifying about unleashing this part of myself.”
Lyons intentionally designed the tour to weave through public space and draw reactions from non-participants.
“My housemate was like, ‘A really gross picture of you giving this tour is going to end up on Barstool,’” Lyons said.
Lyons wanted the tour to “hit like a tornado” in a way that freshmen observing from the sidelines would remember it in their senior year or beyond.
“I would love for this event to happen and for people to graduate, forget about it, then 10 years down the line be struck walking down the street with this visceral call back to their undergraduate experience of this f—kery,” Lyons said. “What did she do? Is she still around? Then they find me, I’m still around, and they go, ‘I should give her money.’”
Despite the emotional and political motivations, Lyons sees the tour as “silly-goofy.” When asked to provide three words to describe the tour, Lyons went above and beyond: “Self-serving, stupid, insightful, incomprehensible, jarring, silly, frustrating, f—kery, itchy, dynamic, cringe, surprising, unhelpful, visceral and delightful.”
After leaving UB, Lyons intends to unleash Mx. Ology’s stink on a larger scale. They plan on moving to Brooklyn and continuing to do drag, with the hopes of one day having their own monthly show and meeting drag artists whose work they respect.
When Lyons and their trademark glamor depart UB, they will continue their ever-evolving self-discovery process.
“I think there’s beauty in not knowing what my drag will look like in five or 10 years,” Lyons said. “Whether it’ll just be an excruciatingly good version of what I’m doing now, or if it will rupture and become something else entirely.”
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