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Drag Isn’t Dangerous Telethon raises over $523,000

Final amount raised from the live broadcast was over $523,000. Recording of it will stay online for 48 hours after its conclusion

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'Drag Isn't Dangerous: Live Telethon' (Screenshot/YouTube)

Into the third hour of Drag Isn’t Dangerous, a brief film makes the point that there have been article after article about children molested by church clergy and counselors, yet not a single bill has been proposed tackling that real issue. Then there are drag queens. Drag queens have never harmed a child, and there are no articles implying that they have.  Yet … yet … state after state, bill after bill are going after drag queens.

With this telethon event, drag queens and all that they have inspired, have sent the message: They are not going to take this shit anymore. Clips of rightwing pundits and commentators were presented and  the ignorant hatred expressed in each clip is both at once chilling, and pathetic.

The message of hate is juxtaposed with segments like one featuring “RuPaul Drag Race” alum Nina West. West told the story about her adventures doing storybook hours at Columbus, Ohio, libraries for children. It should be pointed out that the Nina West brand is one of classiness and kindness. She moved her popular book readings onto Instagram. The first hour where she did so was wonderful. 

The second hour was not. 

The audience turned “dark, terrifying and threatening.” Then it all got very personal. People showed up at his house where he was broadcasting and  blew eardrum breaking airhorns outside his windows. They then started a campaign of harassment and doxing, targeting him, his parents and his sister. Signs appeared in his yard accusing him of being a groomer. 

Last December he embarked on a Drag Christmas tour. The tour encountered protesters, bomb threats and required police escorts.

Drag Isn’t Dangerous: Live Telethon (Screenshot)

Hosted by Justin Martindale and Peppermint with a co-location hosted by Alaska and Adam Shankman, the telethon team declared a goal target of $250,000 for the evening.  The evening was filled with performances from some of the Drag community’s best. Kicking off the evening were songs by Trixie Mattel and Alaska. The online crowd was gobsmacked with exclamations like “legends!” , “fierce!” “That voice!”. 

The telethon was a recreation of the traditional telethon style with a phonebank of drag celebrities womaning the phones. Instead of the phone banks of years gone by the receptionists were not the first point of entry to make donations. In this modern version, donors first register their donation on the gofundme application and then are connected to the celebrity to receive thanks and conversation. Phone bank stars included Candis Cayne, Jinx Monsson, Ginger Minge, Laganja Estranja Trinity the Tuck, Monet Exchange and Queer Eye OG Jai Rodriguez.

As of 4:30 p.m., $55,000 had been raised.

Celebrity cameos and interviews were generously sprinkled through the broadcast. Many of them expressed gratitude and awe for the talents and artistic contributions of drag. Still others were downright angry. “I will f*ck anyone who messes with you,” Charlize Theron declared.

“Drag isn’t dangerous, but Leslie Jones IS!” Leslie Jones fumed.

Sarah Silverman also did not mince words. “It is an invented ‘problem’. It creates a REAL problem for  the marginalized. I would trust RuPaul before any of you (Republican) hate mongers.” To the drag community, she declared, “If they come for you, they will have to come through me first.”

“Lawmakers are terrified of how bright we are shining,” Adam Lambert stated affirmingly.

As of 4:50 p.m. $100,000 had been raised.

Donors were interviewed through the phonebank. Jai Rodriguez had an impromptu conversation with a young woman who had come out as queer that day. Even though her experience has been “tough”, she wanted to celebrate her landmark day by donating.

Michele Visage gave RuPaul visibility and spoke from her heart. “I wish I could say that I am glad to be here,” she started. “I am appalled I have to be at something called ‘Drag Isn’t Dangerous.’ Imagine a world where dancers are told they can’t dance; imagine a world where artists are told they cannot take paint to canvas…because it is ‘bad for children.’ That is what is happening to drag right now.”

As of 5:40 p.m., $205,000 had been raised.  Jinx Monsson whipped out her own checkbook and wrote a check for $10,000.

Other celebrities added perspective to the issue. Ocean Kelly stated, “They want us to stay quiet. Watching a drag queen won’t make a child queer. If a child is queer, it is because they are … queer.”

Billy Eichner discussed the historical use of scapegoats as distractions. “It is not new, but it is urgent and dangerous,” he warned. “We need to be relentless and loud,” he instructed.

Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden demonstrated her queer chops by publicly outing her entire family. “All my children are queer,” she declared. “One is nonbinary, one is gay. My first boyfriend was gay and my conservative Naval Officer dad loved him. “ Of the drag controversy she said, “Why are we having to advocate for creativity and imagination? It is so fear-based. We know what love is.”

As of 7:38 p.m., half a million dollars had been raised.

The movement has started and this first outing is not yet over. Recording of it will stay online for 48 hours after it concludes. 

Go here for tickets and then receive you email with the telethon link: https://www.moment.co/dangerous/dragisntdangerous-drag-isnt-dangerous-live

Donate here.

As for the end of the Telethon, Ginger Minge show stopped with the classic “I Am What I Am” from La Cage.

 
I don’t want praise I don’t want pity
I bang my own drum
Some think it’s noise I think it’s pretty
And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle
Why not try to see things from a different angle
Your life is a sham til you can shout out
I am what I amI am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses
I deal my own deck
Sometimes the ace sometimes the deuces
It’s my life that I want to have a little pride in
My life and it’s not a place I have to hide in
Life’s not worth a danm til you can shout out
I am what I am

********************************************************************

Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Gender expression is fluid in captivating ‘Paul & Trisha’ doc

Exploring what’s possible when you allow yourself to become who you truly are

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Paul Whitehead and Trisha van Cleef in ‘Paul & Trisha.’ (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

Given the polarizing controversies surrounding the subject of gender in today’s world, it might feel as if challenges to the conventional “norms” around the way we understand it were a product of the modern age. They’re not, of course; artists have been exploring the boundaries of gender  – both its presentation and its perception – since long before the language we use to discuss the topic today was ever developed. After all, gender is a universal experience, and isn’t art, ultimately, meant to be about the sharing of universal experiences in a way that bypasses, or at least overcomes, the limitations of language?

We know, we know; debate about the “purpose” of art is almost as fraught with controversy as the one about gender identity, but it’s still undeniable that art has always been the place to find ideas that contradict or question conventional ways of viewing the world. Thanks to the heavy expectation of conformity to society’s comfortable “norms”  in our relationship with gender, it’s inevitable that artists might chafe at such restrictive assumptions enough to challenge them – and few have committed quite so completely to doing so as Paul Whitehead, the focus of “Paul & Trisha: The Art of Fluidity,” a new documentary from filmmaker Fia Perera now available via VOD on iTunes and Apple TV after a successful run on the festival circuit.

Whitehead, who first gained attention and found success in London’s fertile art-and-fashion scene of the mid 1960s, might not be a household name, but he has worked closely with many people who are. A job as an in-house illustrator at a record company led to his hiring as the first art director for the UK Magazine Time Out, which opened the door for even more prominent commissions for album art – including a series of iconic covers for Genesis, Van der Graaf, Generator, and Peter Hammill, which helped to shape the visual aesthetic of the Progressive Rock movement with his bold, surrealistic pop aesthetic, and worked as an art director for John Lennon for a time. Moving to Los Angeles in 1973, his continuing work in the music industry expanded to encompass a wide variety of commercial art and landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records as painter of the largest indoor mural in the world inside the now-demolished Vegas World Casino in Las Vegas. As a founder of the Eyes and Ears Foundation, he conceived and organized the “Artboard Festival”, which turned a stretch of L.A. roadway into a “drive-through art gallery” with donated billboards painted by participating artists.

Perera’s film catches up with Whitehead in the relatively low-profile city of Ventura, Calif., where the globally renowned visual artist now operates from a combination studio and gallery in a strip mall storefront. Still prolific and producing striking artworks (many of them influenced and inspired by his self-described “closet Hinduism”), the film reveals a man who, far from coming off as elderly, seems ageless; possessed of a rare mix of spiritual insight and worldly wisdom, he is left by the filmmaker to tell his own story by himself, and he embraces the task with the effortless verve of a seasoned raconteur. For roughly the first half of the film, we are treated to the chronicle of his early career provided straight from the source, without “talking head” commentaries or interview footage culled from entertainment news archives, and laced with anecdotes and observations that reveal a clear-headedness, along with a remarkable sense of self-knowledge and an inspiring freedom of thought, that makes his observations feel like deep wisdom. He’s a fascinating host, taking us on a tour of the life he has lived so far, and it’s like spending time with the most interesting guy at the party.

It’s when “Art of Fluidity” introduces its second subject, however, that things really begin to get interesting, because as Whitehead was pushing boundaries as an in-demand artist, he was also pushing boundaries in other parts of his life. Experimenting with his gender identity through cross-dressing since the 1960s, what began tentatively as an “in the bedroom” fetish became a long-term process of self-discovery that resulted in the emergence of “converged artist” Trisha Van Cleef, a feminine manifestation of Whitehead’s persona who has been creating art of her own since 2004. Neither dissociated “alter ego” nor performative character, Trisha might be a conceptual construct, in some ways, but she’s also a very authentic expression of personal gender perception who exists just as definitively as Paul Whitehead. They are, like the seeming opposites of yin and yang, two sides of the same fundamental and united nature.

Naturally, the bold process of redefining one’s personal relationship with gender is not an easy one, and part of what makes Trisha so compelling is the challenge she represents to Paul – and, by extension, the audience – by co-existing with him in his own life. She pushes him to step beyond his fears – such as his concerns about the hostile attitude of the shopkeeper next door and the danger of bullying, brutality, and worse when Trisha goes out in public – and embrace both sides of his nature instead of trying to force himself to be one or the other alone. And while the film doesn’t shy away from addressing the brutal reality about the risk of violence against non-gender-conforming people in our culture, it also highlights what is possible when you choose to allow yourself to become who you truly are.

As a sort of disclaimer, it must be acknowledged that some viewers may take issue with some of Whitehead’s personal beliefs about gender identity, which might not quite mesh with prevailing ideas and could be perceived as “problematic” within certain perspectives. Similarly, the depth of his engagement with Hindu cosmology might be off-putting to audiences geared toward skepticism around any spiritually inspired outlook on the world. However, it’s clear within the larger context of the documentary that both Paul and Trisha speak only for themselves, expressing a personal truth that does not nullify or deny the personal truth of anyone else. Further, one of the facets that gives “Art of Fluidity” its mesmerizing, upbeat charm is the sense that we are watching an ongoing evolution, a work in progress in which an artist is still discovering the way forward. There’s no insinuation that any aspect of Paul or Trisha’s shared life is definitive, rather we come to see them as a united pair, in constant flux, moving through the world together, as one, and becoming more like themselves every step of the way.

That’s something toward which we all would be wise to aspire; the acceptance of all of our parts and the understanding that we are always in the process of becoming something else would certainly go a long way toward making a happier, friendlier world.

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PHOTOS: Pride Rewind

Official Sapphic Queer Dance Party held at The Square

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(Washington Blade photo by Emily Hanna)

The Capital Pride Alliance held its “Pride Rewind: Official Sapphic Queer Dance Party” at The Square (1850 K Street, N.W.) on Saturday, June 8.

(Washington Blade photos by Emily Hanna)

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PHOTOS: Pride on the Pier and Fireworks Show

Washington Blade holds annual event at The Wharf

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2024 Pride on the Pier (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade and the Ladies of LURe held the Pride on the Pier and Fireworks Show at The Wharf on Saturday, June 8. The fireworks were presented by the Leonard-Litz LGBTQ Foundation.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key and Emily Hanna; Wildside Media photos used with permission; @marvimage photo used with permission)

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