“Drag queens are more political than ever…” Notes (Ella)

Villarreal, Daniel. “Drag queens are more political than ever. Can they lead a movement?” Vox.com, (2018). Electronic. Retrieved 11/27/2020 from https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/11/5/18056558/drag-queens-politics-activism-lgbtq-rupaul

  • “RuPaul sat down for a political conversation with New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow during the fourth annual RuPaul’s DragCon in New York. After their discussion — which covered President Donald Trump, youth voting, and other issues — an attendee asked RuPaul about drag’s connection to the #MeToo movement. RuPaul said that both have a rebellious spirit. “We’re saying to the structures of society, ‘Fuck you!’” RuPaul said. “In that regard, I think we’re well aligned with the movement.”” (Villarreal)
  • “Recent seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race have featured House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as a guest; contestants discussing conversion therapy while applying their makeup; and one performer, Bob the Drag Queen, describing his arrest during a 2011 marriage equality protest.” (Villarreal)
  • (At drag con)- “At another panel, drag nuns from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence shared their group’s 39-year history of activism. Meanwhile, in the exhibition hall, groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Swing Left, an organization focused on congressional races in US swing districts, educated attendees about policy issues and the importance of voter registration. “DragCon has never been a bubble in denial about reality,” said Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, co-founders World of Wonder and DragCon and executive producers of RuPaul’s Drag Race, in a statement to Vox. “It’s a celebration of life through difference and diversity, and it’s about planting that flag in the ground and claiming our place in this world.”” (Villarreal)
  • “In the modern age, drag queens have risen from obscure gay-bar performers to celebrities with an ever-expanding social media reach. As entertainers who straddle the gender divide and are known for their irreverent outspokenness, they may seem to be in a particularly unique position at this exact political moment to address the Republican pushback on the #MeToo movement and transgender rights.” (Villarreal)
  • “But Chris Mitchell, a doctoral lecturer of gender and sexuality studies at Hunter College, told Vox that the current generation of politically active drag queens found early incubation in the Cockettes, a 1970s San Francisco queer performance troupe. Their ragtag shows lampooned highbrow theater musicals and satirized political events — for instance, their staging of the wedding of Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia ended in an LSD-fueled orgy. While their performances failed to attain a national following, their free-spirited satirical irreverence arguably planted a seed that would later sprout around 1980 with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence…. In 1980, they held a public “Rosary in Time of Nuclear Peril” to protest the 1979 nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island, chased anti-gay Christian protesters out of the Castro and Polk neighborhoods, and raised money for Cuban refugees in a combination bingo game and disco. Over the next two years, they’d host the first-known HIV fundraiser and support Sister Boom Boom’s campaign to unseat then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein, now a US senator. (Sister Boom Boom lost.)” (Villarreal)
  • ““I really do enjoy the power of the drag and the way that you see different people’s reaction to it,” Sister Roma says. She says when she’s in drag, people feel more inclined to donate money or speak personally to her. But naturally, some people find Roma and the Sisters off-putting because of their clownish makeup or the perception that their work mocks religion.” (Villarreal)
  • “Drag Queen Story Hour was started in 2015 by Michelle Tea, an author and queer San Francisco parent who wanted more programs for LGBTQ parents and their kids. The program is exactly what it sounds like: Drag performers wear extravagant makeup and age-appropriate outfits and read books to children for an hour. Though the queens sometimes read books with themes of diversity and inclusion, like And Tango Makes Three or Princess Boy, Lil’ Miss Hot Mess, a board member of Drag Queen Story Time, tells Vox that libraries and individual organizers choose what to read, sometimes choosing titles that fit seasonal themes.” (Villarreal)
  • “A group of anti-gay activists in Houston filed a federal lawsuit against the mayor and the head of the municipal library system for allowing Drag Queen Story Hour to happen at a local library. The Campaign for Houston PAC helped file a lawsuit stating their opposition to “taxpayer dollars [being] used for a drag queen to come in and indoctrinate our young kids.” The group that filed the lawsuit became known among LGBTQ activists around 2015 when they successfully overturned the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance preventing any forms of discrimination against transgender people. Hot Mess told Vox that Drag Queen Story Hour operates largely without taxpayer funds — all a library needs to host one is a children’s book and a drag queen willing to volunteer. Chief US District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal denied the lawsuit a hearing four days after it was filed, stating, “There is no basis to support the requested relief.”” (Villarreal)
  • “Hot Mess says many children’s books, from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games, tell stories about kids standing up to authority and resisting unfair social standards, fighting evil, and working together to build a better world. “I think that what drag queens are doing, hopefully or ideally, isn’t really all that different,” she says. “I think the only thing that we’re ‘indoctrinating’ are values of acceptance and diversity and letting people express themselves and be who they are. It’s shameful to me that those kinds of values are things that people want to protest.”” (Villarreal)
  • “In the April 26, 2018, episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, then 22-year-old performer Blair St. Clair unexpectedly became the face of #MeToo in drag when she explained that her delicate, feminine aesthetic stems from experiencing a sexual assault earlier in her life. She tells Vox she hadn’t planned on discussing it beforehand and shared viewers’ surprise at the sudden admission. But by uttering it, she has become the only queen among the show’s 126 competitors over 10 seasons to ever discuss sexual assault on the show. “I’m overwhelmed in a positive way at how many people — gay men and queens especially — have opened up to me privately,” St. Clair tells Vox. “I never expected to be that voice or that face. It has been incredible … I always needed someone to look up to. If I can be that person for those people, then I feel like I’ve done some justice.”” (Villarreal)
  • “A 2015 report from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center said that 40.2 percent of gay men and 47.4 percent of bisexual men experience sexual assault; 63 percent of assaults go unreported, partly because of social expectations that men should always enjoy sex or be “strong” enough to fend off an attack.” (Villarreal)
  • “But not all Drag Race contestants speak out politically in fear of alienating fans — something that irritates longtime drag performer Jackie Beat. In July 2018, Beat criticized former Drag Race competitors via Twitter for not using their social media followings to speak out more forcefully against Trump. She tweeted: “It’s 2018. Our country is going to Hell in a designer handbag. If you’re a drag queen, ESPECIALLY ONE WHO WAS ON THAT TV SHOW THAT INSTANTLY AFFORDS ONE RECOGNITION & FAME AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE, & you refuse to ‘get political’ — FUCK YOU. I’m not asking you to march or give lengthy speeches… Just sit on your padded ass & tweet ANYTHING. Make a point, take a stand. Stop playing it down the middle, bitch. LET YOUR FANS KNOW EXACTLY WHO YOU ARE. And more importantly, WHO YOU AREN’T.”” (Villarreal)
  • “But if St. Clair now demurs about discussing politics, other former competitors, like season five winner Jinkx Monsoon and season 10 competitor the Vixen, use their fame to encourage fans to vote or to join campaigns against homophobia. Among the show’s most outspoken and politically engaged winners is Bob the Drag Queen, the season eight champion. During Bob’s season, the performer mentioned a personal tagline, “Bob the Drag Queen: A Queen for the People,” and discussed his arrest by New York City Police for blocking a roadway with a giant banner during a 2011 marriage equality protest. “They fucking threw my ass in jail, in full drag, girl.”… To Bob, Trump is merely a symptom or a reflection of longer ongoing issues in America like racism, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia. Whenever the queen sees white fans publicly declare, “These are the darkest times we’ve ever had,” Bob told Vox that it feels like a slap in the face of enslaved people, prisoners, and other people of color who have faced far darker times.” (Villarreal)
  • “Consider the case of Elaine Lancaster, the South Florida drag performer who, in October 2017, was removed as the emcee of a drag brunch at Señor Frogs after posting a tweet that used the hashtag #JewishCollusion when linking to a story about Facebook’s CEO supposedly meeting with Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta before the 2016 election. At the time, Lancaster claimed she quit the drag brunch gig to travel the world with right-wing author Milo Yiannopoulos. But three months earlier on CNN, she lamented being professionally “blackballed” from her decades-long drag career after coming out as a Trump supporter. “I come from a community that touts that we are so inclusive, we are so embracing of what’s different, all we ask for is tolerance and equality,” she told the Miami Herald after her CNN appearance. “I make a living as a female impersonator in the state of Florida. I have hosted all the major events — White Party for 19 years. When I came out as a supporter of Trump … I was thrown off the [White Party] committee. I couldn’t be the emcee anymore. I got death threats. I have lawsuits pending against people.”” (Villarreal)
  • “Bob, however, supposes, “If you’re a Trump supporter, no other drag queens are going to support you. You’re gonna have a bunch of crunchy, raggedy-ass drag queens who are supporting you, but outside of the community, you will get nothing. … If you vote against the right of your community, you do not deserve asylum from your community … or you [may] deserve it, but you won’t get it.”” (Villarreal)

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