As right-wing extremists continue to target events hosted by drag queens nationwide, one queen in Washington, D.C., fought back and sang detractors into silence.
On Saturday, as nearly 150 people came to Crazy Aunt Helen’s, a popular LGBTQ-friendly eatery in the Capitol Hill neighborhood that recently repelled a planned protest by the Proud Boys, so too did a small group of anti-LGBTQ+ radicals with signs and bullhorns.
“Pride is of the devil,” read one sign held by a person who claimed they were transgender once but detransitioned after finding Jesus.
But not to fear, Shi-Queeta Lee stepped up to confront the extremists.
The person tried to argue with Lee about God’s love for LGBTQ+ people, but Lee, who grew up in the church as her father was a minister, came prepared.
“I don’t want you to go to hell,” the person said. "I’m going to heaven,” they continued before Lee interrupted.
“How do you know you’re going to heaven? Who told you you were going to heaven?” she challenges the detractor.
“The Bible,” the person replied.
“The Bible?” Lee reacted in a skeptical voice.
Lee challenged the person to cite where in the Bible the matter is discussed, and as the person began to read from their phone, Lee interrupted and corrected them, quoting the complete verse the person was referencing.
As the person refused to stop, Lee, in a full gown, began singing on the sidewalk.
“God is the joy and the strength of my life. He promised to keep me, never to leave me,” Lee sang as people walked by, police officers grinned, and the protesters became unnerved.
“Well, I’m glad you changed your life so you can live for the better,” Lee said to the protester. “Are you screwing women now?” Lee asked.
“I’m going to have a wife in the future,” the person replies.
“Oh, you ain’t got no wife, child,” she said bemused. “You ain’t gonna have no wife!”
Lee eventually returned inside, leaving the protesters flabbergasted, ridiculed, and stumped outside.
After the event, she took to Facebook Live to discuss what happened,
“I sang the haters away today,” she wrote on Facebook alongside a video of the incident.
Lee tells The Advocate that she didn’t expect to be the target of a protest on the weekend. She says that when she arrived at the venue, nothing seemed wrong, but she caught wind that something was awry when brunch began.
“The manager came back to me and said, ‘Shi-Quita, there are protestors out front. That’s what the guests are saying. And I was like, what?’” she says.
After starting her show, she said that she could hear noise from outside as time went on, which piqued her interest.
“I could hear them on the little speaker bullhorn thing, and I decided I’m going to go outside, and I said, 'y’all got my back?'” she asked.
She says the crowd inside began cheering, clapping, and encouraging her to confront the protesters, which she decided she’d do after fulfilling her obligations.
“I said, ‘well, I’m going to perform first ’cause I’m going to make my coin in case I need some for the doctor later,” she joked.
So, she says she went outside and confronted the bullies — people she challenges to try their antics in on D.C.’s south side.
Later, she says she went back outside as guests were leaving but that the enthusiasm with which the protesters had engaged had decreased. Lee says that the anti-drag sentiment Republicans perpetuate nationwide is upsetting for multiple reasons, including the obvious rights and identity issues. In addition, she says that as performers, drag queens depend on gigs to support themselves.
“I think it’s heartbreaking because that’s my livelihood, and that’s my job. And second of all, they are trying to dim the shine of what God gave me, the talent and creativity to do and to present to others,” Lee says.
She says that while she hasn’t participated in drag queen story hour, she understands those drag queens who do and commends them.
Lee shares that people should understand that there are various types of drag performances: some that are sexy in nightclub settings where children are never present and some are family-friendly brunch performances as well as story hour appearances. She says if Republicans were honest brokers, they’d realize that drag queens are, first and foremost, entertainers who are there to put on a show tailored appropriately to the audience for which they are hired to perform. Just like any other act one can book, she says.
“I would tell someone skeptical about drag the same thing I get with people who come to our shows for the first time. So many people have heard about drag or seen it on TV, but they never experienced it or anything like that until they see a show and they actually see what goes on.
“They have a whole newfound perspective of drag performance,” she says. “It’s entertainment, and it’s all about art. It’s just like going to a theater to see a Broadway show or anything like that. It’s the same thing. We are there to entertain, and if you’re delighted, we’ve done our job as entertainers.
She has a message for those out there who are concerned about drag: go check out a brunch or story hour with your kids or leave the kids at home and come with your friends to an evening performance.
“The shows are not about trying to transform somebody or convert somebody to be gay or trans,” Lee says. “See the show for yourself before you judge a drag entertainer.”