My name is Brantley Moate, I am a Star Trek drag queen and I have something to say about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act hullaballoo going on in Indiana and by extension in the rest of the U.S.
Yes, it's true, I'm the other half of that incredible drag superstar from the 23rd century, the queen of outer space, Lt. Moxie Anne Magnus, the chief xenocosmetologist on the USS Enterprise. Perhaps you¹ve heard of her. No? Well, Mz. Magnus has been traveling around entertaining the sci-fi con circuit for about four years now. And in that time she and I have spent a great deal of time in Indiana.
When Lt. Magnus first started doing her sci-fi shtick she was lucky enough to meet the Indianapolis-based band Five Year Mission, a group with the goal of making one song for each episode of Star Trek, the original series. She jumped at this opportunity for shameless self-promotion, bonding with like-minded artists, and has since tagged along with the band as a kind of giant mascot/groupie. As a result she has been a guest at a number of functions in Indianapolis, including both Starbase Indy and InConjunction.
I've traveled around quite a bit with Moxie and I have to say that nowhere has she been more welcomed than in Indianapolis. Of course, the sci-fi tradition of Star Trek has always embraced diversity with the ideal of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) and con-goers in Indy include and celebrate the great alphabet soup that is LGBT (and extended versions such as QUILTBAG or LGBTQIA). These are the Hoosiers of the great Kurt Vonnegut, my favorite author. They are allies. They are proud. And they do not take things lying down. They may be in the minority in Indiana, but it is a very large minority.
Recently Indiana's governor, Mike Pence, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which can be used to discriminate against LGBT people. As a result, many companies and individuals called for boycotting doing business with or traveling to Indiana. In some instances, the action of boycotting may put pressure on the governor and legislators to make changes to the law, offering protections to LGBT people, but I believe an across-the-board boycott is a grave mistake.
One of my heros, George Takei, has called for a boycott of Indiana. Mr. Takei, Sulu from the original Star Trek and a great member of and spokesman for the LGBTQ community, has said, "I have called for a boycott of Indiana — not only to send a clear message to Indiana, but also to help stop the further erosion of our core civil values in other parts of this country."
Boycotting businesses may be beneficial. However, boycotting travel to the state by individuals will be detrimental. It will isolate the very people who need to be supported.
I want to make it clear that I am not a Hoosier. I am a southerner from the state of Georgia, a state that has a history of being painted with a broad brush. Imagine, if you will, that the South, or even just simply Alabama, had been met with a travel boycott in the 1950s and '60s, the great era of civil rights. Imagine no freedom riders, no floods of marchers from Selma to Montgomery. People from around the country came to the South, came to Alabama, to take part in and to put themselves in the middle of the battle, not to isolate themselves from the problem. They came to join arm-in-arm with those who were in the minority. They came to create a force to be reckoned with. Mr. Takei and others have said that they would not go to Indiana because they could be refused service in hotels or restaurants. That is exactly why they should go.
Our allies in Indiana need us standing next to them and marching with them. We don't need to be casting our rocks from distant places; we need to rally to Indiana. We need to speak there, perform there, and lift up the people who need our support. People should get out from behind their computer screens and go to Indiana in great numbers.
Now, compared to George Takei, Moxie Magnus is infinitesimally small beans. She will not be boycotting Indiana; she will actually look at ways to increase her presence in the state. By being there, by being out, visible, and vocal, she might make a tiny bit of difference. Indiana needs boots on the ground, and from me it can count on one pair – one giant pair of very fashionable six-inch, chunky-heel platforms.
BRANTLEY MOATE is an actor, comedian, writer, and musician, best known for his performances as Lt. Moxie Anne Magnus, chief xenocosmetologist on the USS Enterprise. In addition to performing at sci-fi fantasy conventions, Moxie writes a blog, produces a video podcast, and even has a biweekly Web comic titled Tales From Salonbay. When not performing in drag, Brantley Moate teaches English as a second language and runs his own massage business.