Louisville, Ky. — Diana Rae Ellis leaned into the rest room mirror in her house, making use of make-up in a well-recognized routine to decorate in drag.
Eyeliner. Eyelids. Lipstick. Glow. Wig. Costume.
It was a latest morning, and Ellis, 30, was getting ready to entertain households at a non-public venue in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, singing and studying a kids’s ebook titled “My Awesome Brother.”
Alice is a transgender lady and drag queen. Her wig and flame-orange gown had been all-ages drag storytime for her performance in the afternoon the place she promotes neighborhood and acceptance.
However she knew that any such show got here amid a rising tradition conflict over transgender rights. And performing in drag meant the potential threat of revealing his id.
And at the present time would show to be no completely different.
It got here as Republican lawmakers pushed payments to ban drag reveals of all ages or regulate the lives of transgender youth. Tennessee has banned drag in entrance of minors. Kentucky handed a sweeping invoice that features banning all gender-affirming well being care and proscribing the bogs they’ll use.
Protests at all-ages drag reveals have unfold from Ohio to Texas, the place each pro- and anti-drag protesters have generally ended up brandishing weapons, and the place some declare they wish to shield kids. , whereas others overtly show every thing from prayers to Nazi salutes.
And this week noticed a brand new spherical of rhetoric linking all transgender folks to violence after police recognized the attacker in the lethal college taking pictures in Nashville as a transgender individual.
This Sunday, nevertheless, the day earlier than that taking pictures, Ellis ignored the tradition conflict — and indicators that there is perhaps protesters — as she obtained dressed.
By the finish of the day, there have been books, songs and heaps of smiles from the youngsters. There would even be a menace that might deliver a police bomb squad not solely to the venue but additionally to his personal house.
Extra:A drag show, a protest and a row of weapons: how a struggle over a problem is tearing America aside
warning of protest or worse
Final week, a drag occasion known as “Come As You Are” in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, was shut down “due to excessive threats of violence against our group, organizers and venue.”
Organizers had been additionally going through issues forward of Sunday’s occasion in Louisville.
Kentucky chapter of drag queen Story Time warns a neo-Nazi group might journey to Louisville and protest telegram chat in which customers stated they hoped to influence members of white supremacist teams from Ohio to take part.
However earlier than Sunday’s 2 p.m. show, Ellis stated he was not frightened. The venue was behind a gated non-public property and further safety was deliberate. The one time the native group had seen a big quantity of protesters demonstrated.
In the house she shares along with her associate and a roommate, her father and her canine, Tiger, she relaxes on the sofa as Ellis dons huge eyelashes and signature glitter on her lips, a can of Purple Bull power drink on the rest room. Cain.
Ellis, nonetheless exhausted from a drag performance the earlier evening at a neighborhood LGBTQ nightclub, then frolicked memorizing the songs he would sing to a crowd of households and kids.
Alice, the dad or mum of a 3-year-old, stated she got here out in highschool and later realized, “I don’t feel like I was born in the right body.” She now identifies as a transgender lady.
Drawn to tug when she was younger, she attended her first drag pageant round 2015 as half of a Satisfaction occasion and discovered artwork, expression, neighborhood, and acceptance in it. She goes by drag character Diana Rae.
a few years in the past she was related to drag queen story time And located that it additionally got here with its personal rewards – which allowed it to speak a optimistic message.
He famous that regardless of drag reveals’ status as being dangerous, this isn’t the case for all-ages occasions. As an alternative, she stated, they’re about selling schooling, enjoyable, and selling acceptance.
“They’re basically telling people, hey, whichever way you’re going, it’s okay,” she stated.
However as the protests escalate, his mom has raised issues about his security, she stated. Many nightclubs that host drag reveals have beefed up safety, particularly in the wake of the mass taking pictures at LGBTQ membership Membership Q in Colorado final yr that left 5 folks lifeless.
As Ellis made his means towards the venue, crowds had been already coming into, discovering tables with meals, youngsters’ crafts, and books. One other drag performer, 40-year-old John Rice, whose drag identify is “Tova”, was dressing up regardless of issues from neo-Nazis.
Rice stated, “I’m not going to live in fear.”
Moments later, an organizer ran in with pressing information: There had been a bomb menace, he stated. Now we have to evacuate.
one show, delayed
Ellis and his associate, Ethan Masks, 20, pulled as much as the venue, and attendees waited for the Louisville Metro Police Division’s bomb squad to analyze the constructing.
A small group of protesters confirmed up, one of whom carried indicators that learn “Drag Queen Story Time Is Child Abuse”, however none gave the impression to be armed or members of a neo-Nazi group.
As well as, many had been dressed in black and carried rifles as volunteer safety. and had been members of the Parasol Patrol, which makes use of coloured umbrellas to create a visible barrier for protesters. Surrounding him had been stay streamers and information cameras, together with a crew from Japan protecting America’s battle on the drag show.
“I hear everybody’s flipping,” stated one other solid member as Ellis waited in a gated parking zone.
It was then that the organizers and a police officer informed Ellis that the bomb menace had additionally focused his personal house, which he had simply left.
As she stood close to her automotive, a member of the bomb squad stated they might search her home. Alice shuddered, nodded, and hurriedly obtained on the telephone with a neighbor.
“There are going to be some police officers at the house,” she stated. “Not to scare you, but there has been a bomb threat in the apartment.”
Ellis appeared stoic however later stated she was “going mad” and was about to cry. Then, he collected himself. She was not going dwelling.
“You are a target. How do you handle (being) targeted? You stay strong, you smile and you do what you came here to do,” she stated.
After the police clear the place, Ellis walks inside for cheers and hellos. About 150 folks, together with households with kids, had gathered on garden chairs. Quickly she was in entrance of him.
“My name is Diana Rae, and it’s drag queen story time,” she stated. “I want to read you guys a book called ‘My Awesome Brother’.”
The image ebook, About Transgender Acceptance, tells the story of a baby whose older sister is transitioning.
After studying, he requested everybody to take a look at the stranger and affirm over and over once more: “You’re beloved. You’re particular… If you end up feeling down, and you are feeling such as you simply cannot make it, keep in mind right this moment that I consider in you. And you need to maintain going.
Then she lip-synced a Lizzo music known as “Special”.
After different artists learn books, Ellis signed and took pictures with the attendees. As the occasion ended, the crowd dispersed, and she was informed that the police had discovered nothing suspicious in the home.
Earlier than leaving, she sat down for an interview with a Japanese TV crew to speak about preventing at all-ages drag occasions. “Putting away isn’t a crime,” stated Ellis. It’s the artwork, he defined, of greedy to know the opposition.
“Drag queens are just trying to read a book to kids. Drag queens are trying to uplift and educate… so why do you need to turn around and attack them?” she stated.
By late afternoon, as they packed up her wig and different gear, Ellis had spent greater than an hour serving to with one other drag occasion.
She returned to her house that evening, decided that she wouldn’t let the threats drive her away from dwelling.
The following night, she learn the information that police had recognized the individual behind the taking pictures at a Nashville Christian elementary college that killed three college students and three workers as a transgender man. They feared it will give conservative anti-transgender commentators an excuse to say, ‘We had been proper, they’re loopy.'”
Another wave of anti-trans rhetoric was scary, but it wasn’t new.
“Since I got here out as trans, I’ve all the time had security issues,” she stated.
What is needed, she said – like the narrator of the children’s book she reads – is for people to try to understand and accept people who are different.
And like her story-time confirms, she’ll keep going in spite of it all.
Chris Kenning is a national correspondent. Contact her at [email protected] and on Twitter @chris_kenning,