Right­eous re­bel­lion

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

A few weeks ago I joined the At­lanta chap­ter of Black Lives Mat­ter and took to the streets in protest of the mur­ders of Phi­lando Castile and Al­ton Ster­ling. The two men were shot and killed within 24 hours of each other and it hap­pened just weeks af­ter the mass mur­der at Pulse in Or­lando.

My heart was bro­ken. I was so over­whelmed by all the re­cent tragedies that I felt I had to do some­thing. It was im­por­tant to me to let the black com­mu­nity know that I stood with them in their out­rage, their grief and that they were not in this alone be­cause I would ap­pre­ci­ate the same from them if it were hap­pen­ing to my com­mu­nity.

The march down Peachtree was in­spir­ing. I stood with white peo­ple, black peo­ple, Mex­i­can Amer­i­cans, Mus­lims and lots of peo­ple from the LGBT com­mu­nity. Yes, traf­fic was backed up. Yes, in­ter­sec­tions were forced to wait un­til we passed. Some peo­ple honked their horns and waved in sup­port and some peo­ple laid on their horns in frus­tra­tion.

When I got home I posted about my ex­pe­ri­ences on so­cial me­dia and was sur­prised and sad­dened when an old drag queen friend of mine was pub­licly protest­ing the events, pro­claim­ing that our ac­tions were an­noy­ing “stunts,” that we should have got­ten per­mis­sion by the city and pro­nounc­ing that the en­tire Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment was noth­ing but a waste of time.

I was so an­gry and won­dered how some­one in our com­mu­nity could so quickly for­get how our fight for civil rights ac­tu­ally be­gan. I had to re­mind him that Stonewall was a riot and that it was a trans­gen­der woman named Sylvia Rivera who re­port­edly threw the first rock. Sylvia Rivera was some­body who never qui­etly or calmly ac­cepted the sta­tus quo. She spent her life fight­ing for the in­clu­sion of trans­gen­der peo­ple, drag queens, home­less queer youth, and oth­ers who had be­come marginal­ized by so­ci­ety.

It was this kind of re­bel­lion that in­spired me when I first started to be­come friends with drag queens. I was in awe of their sense of hu­mor, cre­ativ­ity and bold out­spo­ken per­son­al­i­ties. I ad­mired their larger than life pres­ence and I re­al­ized that some­times they had to be a badass in or­der to de­fend them­selves from all the haters in the world. It takes guts to walk out on stage in full make up and high heels but it takes real courage to use the mi­cro­phone af­ter you lip-synced your song to stand up for oth­ers and fight for a big­ger cause.

I think it is im­por­tant to keep in mind that drag queens have al­ways been one of our com­mu­nity’s most ac­tive change mak­ers. If it wasn’t for lo­cal leg­ends like Bubba D. Li­cious and The Ar­morettes, we wouldn’t have been able to raise tens of thou­sands of dol­lars for lo­cal AIDS char­i­ties. Or­ga­ni­za­tions like The East Point Pos­sums have been “do­ing good work through bad drag” for 16 years with founder Rick West­brook spear­head­ing and rais­ing funds for Lost-n-Found Youth.

I am hon­ored to have some drag queens that I can call true friends. I have re­al­ized how sen­si­tive, fiercely loyal and sweet they can be be­hind their tough ex­te­rior. This is es­pe­cially ev­i­dent when they use their artis­tic plat­form for big­ger causes like fight­ing for the civil rights for all peo­ple and it is im­por­tant that all of us re­mem­ber that the very first gay Pride pa­rade took place with­out a city per­mit and to never ever for­get where we came from.

“It takes guts to walk out on stage in full makeup and high heels but it takes real courage to use the mi­cro­phone af­ter you lip-synced your song to stand up for oth­ers and fight for a big­ger cause.”

Bill Kaelin is the owner of Bill Kaelin Mar­ket­ing Events and Con­sult­ing Agency in At­lanta. www.Bil­lKaelin.com

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