I am a rebel with a cause. As a drag queen, there’s a sense of duty. We’re leaders, performing in venues across the world every night of the week. We stand out from the crowd and use our microphone or social media reach for good. We’re a strong voice in the campaign for LGBT rights, and more.
I stand in at over 7ft tall. I call Scotland my home. Back in 2013, with Glasgow as my canvas I was performing in the gay bars, DJing in the clubs and telling jokes to anyone who wanted to hear them. Stories started to appear in the press about Russia’s Anti-Gay Propaganda law that was being pushed through by Putin’s regime. It heralded a new and vicious form of homophobia that saw gay people being beaten for walking down the street.
Scotland stood in solidarity. United with one powerful voice, we called for our politicians to advocate on behalf of LGBT people in Russia, to give a voice to the voiceless and use diplomacy to end this homophobic tirade. Yet amongst this activism and campaigning, Glasgow City Council was twinned with Russian city Rostov-on-Don and our Lord Provost was scheduled for an official visit.
I was angry. Russia was becoming the centre of a storm of homophobia that prevented LGBT charities from existing, pushing LGBT people back into the speakeasies and yet our Lord Provost was happy to accept a formal visit to the country.
I wrote to the Lord Provost. I asked if she was willing to cancel her visit to send a message that Glasgow didn’t support the Putin regime’s actions. I published a petition, demanding the Lord Provost cancel her visit and withdraw the twinning arrangement. The petition gained traction and support, media outlets picked it up and yet the Lord Provost was remained committed to visiting.
When asked if she would meet with LGBT activists in Russia, she avoided the question. When asked if she would meet with LGBT activists at Glasgow Pride, she avoided the question. I believe that the message we sent was that it was okay to push forward this legislation, because we would remain their friend.
At Glasgow Pride, from the main stage, we sent a message of solidarity, in Russian to LGBT people. We stood for solidarity, yet our Lord Provost was prepared to visit. The campaign united Glasgow, and Scotland’s LGBT community standing in solidarity with Russian LGBT people. We stood on the steps of the Russian Embassy in Edinburgh. We chanted. The Equality Network delivered a letter on behalf of the LGBT community condemning their actions.
The Lord Provost still made her visit, but we’re told she took the message of Glasgow’s LGBT community to the Mayor of Rostov-on-Don. I hope she did.
Weeks after the campaign, a friend recounted a story that during a meeting with the Lord Provost she had been mentioned a woman named Nancy that kept emailing her about Russia. She supposedly said “I don’t even know if she is a real women.” I’m not a real woman. I’m a drag queen, and I’m a rebel with a cause.
Photo credit: Paulo Nunes dos Santos