While millions of eyes were on the Oscars this weekend, another display of talent was going on at a military base.
On Saturday, six gay, lesbian and straight service members traded in their military uniforms for some glitz and glam, performing in drag at a fundraising event at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. The show was organized to raise money for Okinawa’s first chapter of OutServe-SLDN, the largest advocacy group for the military’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, reports Stars and Stripes.
The event, which featured dance and lip-sync performances, including one to the tune of “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” was a surprise hit with its military crowd.
“We didn’t think there was much of a desire for an event like this on the island but it has actually blown up,” Navy Lt. Marissa Greene, co-chapter leader of OutServe Okinawa, told Stars and Stripes.
Green initially predicted the group would sell roughly 75 tickets, but 400 sold in just 10 days.
Amid nationwide debates over marriage equality and just three years since the repeal of the military's "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" ban on gays serving openly, the Okinawa variety show signifies a cultural shift in the military’s acceptance of gays.
The event follows in the footsteps of other military members who bravely donned glitter in the past. Throughout the 1970s, openly gay Army sergeant Perry Watkins performed in drag under the stage name of “Simone” in Army Clubs across Europe, The New York Times reported in 1996. His turbulent battle with the U.S. military over his right to re-enlist in the army in light of its crackdown on openly gay service members also led to a monumental victory in 1989, when the Supreme Court ruled he was permitted to re-enlist.