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Why Drag Queens Will Lead the Revolution

drag march

Drag artists have always been on the front lines of queer activism.

One of the first documented LGBTQ public protests was led by queens at Cooper's Donuts in Los Angeles when they fought back against police in 1959. Then in 1966 at Gene Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco, the queens rioted against police who continued to harass and attack them.

Of course, there was the famous Stonewall uprising of June 1969, led by, among others, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, both of whom self-identified as drag queens. Johnson and Rivera changed our world forever by forming the iconic activist group Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. 

And when the AIDS epidemic hit our community, the Sisters of Perpetual Idulgence used their drag to raise money and fight back, joining forces with groups such as ACT UP.

Drag has always been and will always be political in nature because the art of drag in itself is a form of political protest. To go against societal norms of what gender is understood to be is telling the establishment that we are taking control of the narrative and not allowing ourselves to be pushed down by toxic masculinity.

Drag queens and drag kings have always used their platform to speak out for the community, whether the community was on board or not. And as drag becomes more mainstream, more people are looking to drag artists for guidance. Drag artists have a unique opportunity to be a voice because often they are on a stage or have microphone in hand multiple times a week.

It is now more important than ever for drag performers to stand up and speak out against injustices in our country and world. With LGBTQIA people represented in every demographic of humanity, issues like gun control, health care, immigration, and women's rights are all LGBTQIA issues. 

And we have the power to create this change — and the people who want us erased know that. 

Recently, Ohio state Rep. Candice Keller said that mass shootings are caused in part by drag queen activists. And her vitriol comes as folks like me continue to see immense backlash due to our performances at bars and when we host drag story hours for kids at libraries.

While many laughed at her statement for a multitude of reasons, her attempts to put down an art for that has for decades worked to help other people was her way of putting a target on the back of every drag queen who takes a stand. Her words are dangerous and are putting lives at risk.

But her words also should remind us that we must fight back. 

Drag artists have an obligation to use their drag to take a stand and continue to disrupt and push back in every way possible. We can no longer just be seen as jesters who entertain bargoers; we must take to the streets and fight back like those before us did. 

We must fight for the transgender women of color who are being murdered, for the children locked in cages and taken from their families, for the couples who are being denied their right to adopt children because they are LGBTQ, and for gun reform so we will never again have a Pulse or a Parkland.

And we must fight for ourselves, because we always have.  


Marti Gould Cummings is a New York City drag artist and political activist who starred on Fusion TV's Shade: Queens of NYC and currently is a member of the New York City Nightlife Advisory Board.

Tags: Commentary, Drag

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