Confessions of Drag Dealer
With this year’s Pride season well underway, many folks in the queer community are gearing up for a month-long celebration with events happening all across the city—everything from a street festival and several drag shows and parties to a Pride march and allyship town hall, all in the name of celebrating Pride in Thunder Bay.
But this June is not all rainbows and glitter. In the last few years, we’ve seen a spike in hate crimes and vitriol directed at the queer community, specifically the drag and trans communities. There has always been disdain and contempt thrown at these groups, but recently it seems like the hate has erupted out of chat rooms and social media comments and oozed out exponentially into the real world, causing some very real concern for people’s human rights and their personal safety. “It feels for the first time in a lot of years that we’re really facing a threat to our community,” says local drag queen, Amber Ail. “Actual legislation is being tabled against us, and it’s frightening. Our identities have been politicized.”
All across the U.S. and beyond, bills are in the works to restrict health care for trans people, criminalize drag performers, ban all mention of the LGBTQIA+ community in schools, and in some countries, criminalize those who identify as LGBTQ and impose the death penalty for some offenses. “I think for a country that pretends it’s brave or free, they’re deeply afraid of people lip syncing to Cher in a pair of heels from the thrift store,” says co-host of Story Time with TBay Drag Queens (and mother of four), Mz. Molly Poppinz. These bills are targeting drag, but are also a roundabout way to control trans people. “The wording of all these bills restricts clothing against your assigned gender at birth, which will affect trans people the most,” says Amber Ail. “Drag, you can take off; your gender identity, you can’t. These laws essentially force trans people to choose between going back in the closet, or risk going to jail. It’s insane.”
Don’t think for a second that this hate is limited to our neighbours to the south. Not only have we seen a dramatic uptick in negative comments on the Story Time with TBay Drag Queens Facebook page, but right here in Thunder Bay there have been several instances of people trying to shut down drag events by emailing the city, complaining about the Youth Week Drag Show, and showing up to city council meetings with non-factual arguments and uninformed claims that Story Time with Drag Queens equates to a gender-bending strip show—which anyone who’s actually attended a Story Time event knows is wildly untrue.
So what can we do to show support? Half the battle is just showing up. “Be present at events and show your support as often as possible,” says Mz. Molly Poppinz. “When confronted with homophobic or transphobic rhetoric, speak against it immediately. Do not politely laugh at that co-worker’s hateful joke. Do not make excuses for people refusing to learn, and vote for politicians who don’t use hating gay and trans people to further their own agendas.”
For a list of local drag events during Pride month, follow @wigginsproductions and @tbshows.
Story by Jimmy Wiggins, Photo by R. Macsemchuk