Scarlet Envy helped Cornett launch a new drag-friendly company policy
Attacks on the drag community are attacks on everyone’s freedom
I’ve never accidentally run into a drag queen. No drag queen has ever come for me, seeking to steal my rights or my autonomy. I have never been sexually assaulted by or threatened by or beaten up by or frightened by a drag queen.
Conservative bigots, on the other hand, are in my face day in and day out. Republicans are after my rights, my autonomy and my very existence. Straight white men and “religious” leaders have sexually assaulted, threatened and frightened me and every woman I know in one way or another.
So why is it drag needs to be obliterated or, at the very least, controlled?
The answer is simple. It doesn’t. It’s yet another distraction, another way to trick the masses into believing that the good guys are the bad guys and vice versa.
It’s as genius as it is despicable. And it’s working. The thing is, banning drag is just the tip of an enormous iceberg.
First, they came for the drag queens.
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a drag queen.
Then they came for the transgender men and women and children.
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a transgender man or woman or child.
Then they came for the young women.
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a young woman.
Then they came for me.
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.
It’s a take on the poem, “First they came” by Martin Niemöller. I think about it a lot. If we don’t stand together, for one another, we will be obliterated — one by one, group by group — by those who hate.
I don’t do drag. I don’t get to see drag as often as I’d like. And I can only count a few drag performers in my group of friends. So, why should I care about drag being banned?
Because it’s not drag that’s being banned; it’s freedom. Period.
It’s freedom of expression. Freedom to live and love however you choose. Freedom to dress how you like, worship (or not) how you like, entertain yourself and others as you like, eat how you like, care for yourself as you like.
It’s about freedom, and freedom is a much more delicate structure than you might think. Once the chipping away begins, the collapse is not far behind.
We have to go to drag shows. We have to give money to drag organizations. We have to vote in EVERY election against the conservative hate.
We have to do all of those things, and then we have to do more. We have to weave freedom into everything we do. We have to make expressing ourselves a protected right.
I was recently inspired by the work my friend Jamon Deaver is doing on this front with the advertising agency where he works, Cornett. They have initiated a campaign called “Work is a Drag” and added this to their employee handbook:
“How you choose to identify and express yourself is something we celebrate — it’s what makes our workplace unique. That’s why our employees have the freedom to dress however they feel comfortable, including in drag. All we ask is that you keep it fierce and keep it office-appropriate. That way, when you show up to work, you show up ready to werk.”
“We have to do whatever the fuck we can to shift that narrative,” Deaver said. “Businesses need to be using their voice. We have the power to shift these beliefs. We have to do more than donate during Pride month. We have to speak up. We should be celebrating our differences.”
To mark the addition to their handbook, RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Scarlet Envy — along with Jenna Jive, Kali Dupree and Uma Jewels — all came together to give two Cornett employees, Whit Hiler and Coleman Larkin, drag makeovers, transforming them into Witty Comments and Sweet Evening Sleeze respectively.
Neither man had ever done drag. Neither identifies as LGBTQ. Both stand as staunch allies of the community and of personal freedom.
Kelsea Ballerini recently used her voice — in this case literally — to amplify the voices of drag performers. The night she co-hosted the Country Music Awards, she performed her hit “If You Go Down (I’m Goin’ Down Too)” at the ceremony with RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni Manila Luzon, Jan Sport, Kennedy Davenport and Olivia Lux. That’s another great example of no longer just speaking our truth, but of yelling it until they have to listen.
It ruffled feathers. So, it worked.
It’s getting scary. And we only have two choices — curl up in a ball and hide, which is tempting to be sure, or start yelling however you can.
You can yell by changing your corporate policy. You can yell by inviting those who need a platform to join you on yours. You can yell by voting, by protesting, by donating, by educating — by doing anything but keeping your mouth shut.
I hope they never come for you. If they do, I’ll be here to speak for you. And I hope you’ll be there to do the same for me.
They seek to divide us. Freedom is ours as long as we never stop standing together.
Jenny Block, author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning book Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage, is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to Dallas Voice. Read her Girl On Girls column on the first Friday of every month in Dallas Voice.