Despite rising acceptance of their gender and sexual identities, the past two years have brought unspeakable tragedies and attacks on the rights of LGBTQ Americans. Between North Carolina's trans-discriminatory "bathroom bill" (and copycats introduced in state legislatures across the country), last summer's horrific Pulse nightclub shooting, and with 2016 on record as the most violent year for trans people to date, with at least 27 murders reported (nearly all of them trans women of color), it was easy to feel discouraged about the future of LGBTQ America before Donald Trump and a slew of trans- and homophobic legislators rose to power in Washington.
But in politically treacherous times, drag only becomes stronger. After all, the heart of drag lies in subverting the way society marginalizes its most oppressed people—and if you expected our country's drag queens to take the next four years laying down, kindly sashay away.
We asked nine queens from across the country to read our House of Representatives, serve us executive (branch) realness, and throw our judiciary some shade.
Qui Pro Domina Justitia Sequitur?!, Landa Lakes, San Francisco
Photo by Kyle Casey Chu
"The cumulative wealth of Trump's Cabinet picks is more than a third of American households combined. As someone who has relied on lawsuits to maintain his power, Trump will certainly not promote the blind justice that Lady Justice embodies. But peeking out from behind her blindfold. Lady Justice sees America's corporate greed, structural racism, institutional sexism, LGBTQ inequality, and climate-change ignorance, AND SHE HAS HAD IT!"
Deface One of Us and You Deface Us All, Panda Dulce, Oakland
Photo by Alice Choe, mural by the Dragon School
"As artists, activists and organizers criticized the 2017 Women's March on Washington for lacking intersectionality, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza asked: 'Can we build a movement of millions with the people who may not grasp our black, queer, feminist, intersectional, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist ideology, but know that we deserve a better life and who are willing to fight for it and win?'
In the tradition of Bay Area pan-ethnic and broad-based movements—like the Third World Liberation Front, Yellow Peril Supports Black Power, and countless others—let us endeavor to stand together, and show up for everyone, even (and especially) if their struggles do not directly or ostensibly reflect our own experiences."
#RESIST, Lil Miss Hot Mess, New York
Photo by Lil Miss Hot Mess
"While things like Facebook access or the privacy of our text messages may seem like small change in the face of our impending political apocalypse, it's crucial to remember that government surveillance often provides the means to carry out many of our politicians' worst plans. From policies that ban Muslims and deport immigrants to programs that beef up local policing and target Black neighborhoods, data collection has been—and probably will continue to be—used against our communities in ways we might not expect. Various forms of digital eavesdropping have been used for decades to discredit, silence, and divide social justice organizations and movements. We need to use media and technology strategically by adopting tools and practices that can protect our privacy, double-checking our sources, demanding our right to express dissent across platforms, and holding both corporate and government leaders accountable in the ways they collect, analyze, and make use of our data. That also means that as much as we use digital platforms and devices to organize, we should also remember that our social networks were strong before they went online, and we're strongest when we come together IRL."
Toxic Masculinity, Kitty Buick, Austin
Photo by Caito Matthews
"Due to their marginalized identities, women and femme men already feel unsafe on a daily basis, and Trump's policies, behavior and spiteful rhetoric may have already induced violence toward these groups. Although this portrait presents me as feeling strong and powerful, Trump's toxic masculinity is anything but empowering. Encountering it—in the form of aggressive comments, unwanted touching or myriad other subtle manifestations—weakens one's self-image, tamps down soulful expression and makes all of us feel scared and vulnerable."
More Whammo! Less Ammo!, LOL McFiercen, San Francisco
Photo by Kyle Casey Chu
"On January 23, President Tiny Hands Trump reinstated and expanded the Reagan-Bush Mexico City Policy (AKA 'the global gag rule') that restricts family planning organizations who receive federal funding from offering information about or even discussing abortions with their patients. This came after US legislators introduced over 500 bills restricting access to reproductive health care in 2016. Meanwhile, 2016 saw 476 mass shootings in the US, and yet the last federal gun control law was approved in 2007 and had support from the NRA.
Expanding on the Cocks Not Glocks movement at the University of Texas, in which protestors carried dildos on campus to highlight the absurdity of legislation authorizing students to carry loaded firearms in state classrooms, I imagined an America where funding for firearms and military efforts to perpetuate oppression is reinvested in sexual health and reproductive justice, to offer free services to all."
Photo by Klonopin Kardashian and Blackberri
"In 2015, Houston's Prop 1, AKA the 'Houston Equal Rights Ordinance' (HERO), endeavored to ban workplace discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, race and/or religion. Houston's ultra conservative right countered this movement with the 'NO MEN IN WOMEN'S BATHROOM' campaign, and as a result, HERO was defeated.
The Trump administration has echoed these discriminatory efforts by signaling its intent to roll back policies that allow transgender students to use public restrooms reflecting their gender identities.
We both identify as gender non-conforming queer people of color—we are neither men nor women, and we'll use whatever bathroom we please. These queens want Trump to know that no policy will erase our experiences. Our ability to access spaces that reflect our authentic selves will not be suppressed nor stymied by another's fears."
#9066, Kristi Yummykochi, San Francisco
Photo by Kyle Casey Chu
"On February 19th, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the forced incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two thirds of whom were US citizens. During WWII, the order was justified as a necessity of war.
Today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement sweeps are taking place across the nation, uprooting first generation immigrant communities and tearing families apart. The Trump administration has taken aim at specific religious and ethnic communities. Their hateful rationale is terrifyingly familiar to victims of Japanese internment.The Japanese American experience during WWII is more than a single instance of injustice in American history; its impact echoes to this day. History will only repeat itself if we let it. Resist."