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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Creative writing student explores self-identity as a drag artist

Mia Hennen
Trey Freund, a Wichita State student and local drag queen, fixes his makeup during the intermission.

Trey Freund says he dreams of being a tenured English professor by day and a drag queen by night.

“I want to do a manifesto of ‘what does queerness look like as an expression?’” he said.

His published works touch on themes of queer identity, religious imagery, home in the Midwest, Hispanic identity and self-discovery.

But there’s still one he has yet to publish: a more than 50-page chapbook with paintings, photographs and his writing. It was an in-class assignment for which he created a more than 50-pages.

“I just kind of pushed it to the max, and I want to keep doing that,” he said.

His in-class writing caught the attention of assistant English professor Katie Lanning. She said she had assumed by the quality of his work that he was a senior, and she wanted to recommend him for WSU’s English master’s program. At the time, it was only Freund’s freshman year.

Now, Freund is finishing his final year as an undergraduate creative writing student while simultaneously working on his master’s in English Literature.

“He’s not, you know, waiting around for opportunities … Trey goes out and finds the opportunities,” Lanning said.

Freund performs in drag shows on Sundays at XY Bar, a local gay bar. He said he’s been brainstorming ways to incorporate his writing onstage.

One of Freund’s role models, modern poet Paul Tran, performs their writing with choreography. Freund said he loved the idea.

“You’re taking your work and going, ‘How do I push this further? What more can I do that hasn’t been done with this?’” Freund said.

Freund — known as “imele format” at shows — spends so much money on creative props to make his show better that he doesn’t make a profit from the gig itself. But he said it’s worth it because the second he starts getting ready for one of his shows, it brings him closer to himself.

“It’s such an intimate gesture of, like, your own creation,” he said. “It’s like, how do you go about your own genesis?”

Freund said he “paints a heavy mug,” which is why he calls himself the “mug queen of the city.” He says his heavy drag makeup is a stark contrast to the more introverted presence he brings in an academic setting.

“I’m a completely different person,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to just relax and go crazy, and do flips and … do performances where people just celebrate you for being there.”

Freund said his drag shows are meaningful to him because they are a performance of himself as a person.

“I love the expression of self through that (drag),” Freund said. “The art of being able to recreate yourself in any way that you want to is so precious to me.”

He said one self-identity struggle he feels as a queer person is the pressure “to become accessible, and filtered and be malleable to a society that doesn’t necessarily care if we fit in or not.”

Freund’s favorite literary resource, “Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity” by José Esteban Muñoz, explores how queerness would be able to manifest in an accepting society and what building that society would look like.

Freund wants to write a criticism of Muñoz’s text for his dissertation when he graduates with his master’s next year.

“I’ve never seen … a drag artist that has a tenured professor track job,” he said. “And I think I want to be that vision for other people and show … it’s not fantasy.”

Trey Freund, a WSU student and local drag queen, and Calypso Jetè Balmain dance together during Balmain’s first performance of the evening. (Mia Hennen)
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About the Contributors
Loren Amelunke
Loren Amelunke, Reporter
Loren Amelunke is a first-year reporter for The Sunflower. She is a sophomore at Wichita State, currently pursuing a psychology major. She loves to write poetry and hopes to publish a poetry book in the near future.
Mia Hennen
Mia Hennen, Editor in Chief
Mia Hennen is the current editor in chief for The Sunflower. Before becoming editor, Hennen was the news/managing editor. They are a junior at Wichita State majoring in English and minoring in communications and Spanish, hoping to pursue any career involving writing or editing.

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