Many HBO Max viewers first met Amy Rambow as a star of We're Here season 2. In episode 6 of the series — which features drag stars Shangela, Bob the Drag Queen, and Eureka traveling across America spreading acceptance, confidence, and more — Rambow introduces herself as an ardent LGBTQ+ ally who founded the South Dakota LGBTQ+ organization Watertown Love.
"I may be 5 foot 2, but I can be pretty fierce," she said in the episode. "I’m going to push, I’m going to fight, I’m going to educate you and try to get you to see that there’s a whole lot more out there than just your own little world." This week, she and her trans child, Alex Rambow, took that fight to the front door of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.
Earlier this month, Noem signed an anti-trans sports bill into law. The measure, Senate Bill 46, was the first anti-trans legislation signed by a governor in 2022, barring trans girls and women from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity. Noem authored and submitted the law herself. While visiting the Capitol Building for Equality South Dakota's Visibility and Advocacy Day, Amy thought she had the perfect opportunity to speak to the elected official about the move.
"It really wasn't planned ahead," Rambow tells The Advocate. Watertown Love, an organization for LGBTQ+ youth, parents, and their allies, had been given a table that was right in front of the door to Noem's office, but those staffing the table had assumed the governor was already inside. "But her dog came up to me as she came in the door, and I just seized the opportunity."
Around 10:30 a.m., Rambow came face-to-face with Noem and, after petting her dog, reached out a hand to the politician and asked her to come back out to speak to the group. "She did the old power move where you put your hand on someone's shoulder and nod, and then went to her office," Rambow recalls. Of the gesture, Rambo says, "It's just that look of seeing through you and not hearing you." From then on, Rambow didn't get another chance to speak to Noem but noticed "a lot of security presence."
Later, Rambow posted a photo of her and Alex standing outside the office door. The pair have been politically vocal since Alex came out and they founded Watertown Love. The issue is particularly impactful for Alex, who will decide whether or not he stays in South Dakota after graduation depending on how much South Dakota laws seek to antagonize his existence.
"It affects his daily life and friends around him," Rambow says of the legislation. It would appear the issue was not personal for Noem. "[Not speaking to us] really meant that she could make laws but isn’t willing to speak to the people she’s making laws about. She could’ve at least taken a second to come out, but I’m sure after she signed a bill that she introduced into law she had no interest in speaking to us. She only represents those Republicans in the state and not anybody else. It truly angered me because we just wanted a moment to speak with her about the issues and she doesn’t take that time."
Though Rambow had been speaking out prior to appearing on We're Here (her Watertown Love organization put on Watertown's first Pride festival in recent memory,) for many, the show is a personal turning point. Rambow's participation came more as an effort to change the perception of those in Watertown — some locals protested the show's drag performance with prayer outside while others called for community ordinances to bar drag queens from being in public where children could see them.
"Protecting the fair treatment and legal rights of our trans community is of the utmost importance," Shangela, who functioned as Rambow's drag mother in the episode, tells The Advocate in an emailed statement. "In We're Here, we face opposition head-on to create a dialogue — and hopefully greater understanding — with people who many times don't agree with our LGBTQ+ existence. My drag daughter Amy Rambow is a great advocate for equality for all, and I fully support the efforts and her fellow activists in South Dakota to educate elected officials and community members on the need for support for our trans youth."