Chris and the Queens
Anti-drag and anti-trans legislation may be at an all time high, but so is the growth and vibrancy of this community. For queens like Londenn D. Raine, despite the legislated hate, it's business as usual. And business is good. “This is my chosen profession”, says Londenn. As a traveling performer, she has pioneered drag in places within Oklahoma like Holdenville, Ada, Enid, and Miami - and has been warmly welcomed. “Anybody can go there one time, my goal is to go there more than once so that people start to know you. That is what breaks the barrier down; they start seeing someone like them, or at least someone they now have an interest in,” says Londenn.
“It's that humanization,” says Chris Shoaf, activist and manager of Club Majestic. And drag performers are on the front lines of this work. “It's crazy that drag is usually that common denominator to meet these kinds of people”, says Londenn. ‘These kinds of people,’ meaning those that live in more rural areas with stereotypes of conservatism and bigotry. Londenn admits that it can be scary traveling to places like Iowa or Nebraska, “You don't know how open it's gonna be. But I think it's really refreshing getting to do what we do, and go to these places. There is still a big impact left in those small cities. Leaving little seeds of what we do in these towns, hopefully we'll get to a day where you will feel safe anywhere you go.”
The expansion of drag performances is not necessarily a response to anti-drag efforts. In fact, it's the other way around. “It wasn't drag performers that were like ‘let's do a brunch over here’. It was business owners coming to drag and saying, ‘Hey, we want to do this - will you come and do it for us. It's only because drag has become more prominent and in more spaces that all of a sudden people are treating it like it's a horrible, horrible thing”, says Chris.
Shay Brewer (Scrappy Legacy), king and illusionist, also finds motivation in supporting future generations of performers. “[Anti-drag rhetoric] has led me to really appreciate the platforms that I have as a king, and make sure that I stay visible because I never know who my story is helping out… As long as I stay visible, I’m a piece of that hope”, he says.
Establishments like Club Majestic serve an important role in community support, giving performers a safe place to express. “Performing is definitely an outlet for me”, says fem queen Cassondra Florentine (Karma Marie Lee). “I take my anger, happiness, all my emotions and I put it on the stage”, she says. In addition to on-the-ground support of the community, Club Majestic also supports activism at the legislative level. “When we do see things coming down the line that are anti-trans/anti-queer, we can try to address that. When something harms our community, that harms us as business people too”, says Chris.
It has been said that things often rear their ugly head before they die, and it seems that we continue to live through the tantrum of fearful ideals that will hopefully soon die out (from at least the mainstream). In the meantime, the queer community will still be thriving.