Metro Weekly

Drag Queen Gets Death Threats After Performing at School Prom

Albuquerque school district officials are investigating a performance by a drag queen at a high school's prom.

Atrisco Heritage Academy High School – Photo: KOAT

Employees of a public high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have been placed on leave, and a new acting principal installed, after a drag queen gave a performance at the school’s prom.

Videos on TikTok from the Atrisco Heritage Academy High School prom, held at a local convention center on April 20, showed the drag performer, Mythica Sahreen, dancing around while wearing boots, stockings, and a body suit as students watched.

The TikTok videos were later shared and broadcast by local NBC affiliate KOB, sparking outrage among parents. 

Students who attended the prom told KOB they weren’t offended, but were surprised and a little uncomfortable about the performance, with several telling the news station they thought a drag performance at prom wasn’t age-appropriate for minors.

“[They] could have kept it more on the side of like it being more PG,” one student said. “The fact that they kind of did twerk on a couple students…wasn’t exactly the best, but it was something that did happen. And they did let students twerk on them.”

Another student described the performer’s outfit as “skimpy” and complained that it revealed too much.

At one point during the performance, Sahreen removed a breast pad from the outfit and dabbed her face with it to soak up sweat.

The students who spoke with KOB said they didn’t know who invited or approved the drag performance, but believed it was organized based on the way the DJ introduced Sahreen.

“Offended isn’t what most people were, they were kind of just like ‘Why?'” one student said.

On April 24, Atrisco Heritage Academy’s Facebook page was flooded with angry comments calling the show inappropriate for minors. Other comments attacked Sahreen or made transphobic and anti-LGBTQ remarks.

Some social media posts featuring different video footage of the performance even claimed that Sahreen had stripped as part of the performance.

But those videos do not actually show Sahreen stripping, and the students who attended the prom told KOB that the alleged striptease never happened. 

Albuquerque Public Schools Chief Channell Segura subsequently announced, in a letter to families, that the district was launching an investigation into the performance, how it was approved, and how students were impacted.

In a second letter sent to families on April 25, the district named Anthony Lovato the new acting principal of Atrisco Heritage Academy High School.

Martin Salazar, a district spokesman, told The New York Times that while the district could not comment on specific personnel matters, it could “confirm that employees have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.”

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office subsequently released a statement saying it was working with federal law enforcement to investigate threats against “multiple parties in relation to Atrisco Heritage High School.” No details were given, but a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office confirmed that no arrests had been made.

Dylan Payan, who performs as Sahreen in drag, told the Times that the drag routine, and his outfit, were given full approval by school officials, whom he had emailed, texted with, and met in person prior to the event.

He also refuted claims that he had exposed himself or any part of his “natural body” during the performance, saying that what appears to be a simple black leotard and thigh-high boots actually involves couch cushions and padding shoved beneath seven layers of pantyhose, to create the illusion of a womanly figure.

“Everything is fake,” he said.

Payan, a 26-year-old behavioral therapist who works with autistic children, said he had previously hosted workshops at the school for LGBTQ students involved in the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance and had performed similar shows at least three times before without any negative feedback. The same was initially true of the prom performance, he said.

However, after right-wing and anti-LGBTQ social media accounts expressed outrage over the performance, criticism of the show quickly devolved into hateful, transphobic rhetoric and death threats.

When he tried to reach school officials to complain about the threats, he never received a response.

“At this point, it’s just turned into a hate crime,” he said of the people who have made death threats against him. “What kind of message are you sending to your children?”

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