by Luzviminda 'Lulu' Carpenter -
Special to the SGN
On the evening of Friday, November 9, genderqueer and fierce youth, young adults, and adult allies brought noise and joy to All Pilgrims Church on Broadway. The air was fraught with the possibilities of another world being ushered in. That Friday represented what the next generation was bringing forth in regards to challenging gender and sexuality and creating new identities, cultures, families, and communities.
When you first entered the space, there was a host of complexities that hit your senses. The church was packed with smiling and awkward faces brimming with excitement over what could possibly happen in the next few minutes. The youth event organizers within the building had worked extremely hard with adult allies for an event called 'Gender Fierce,' a drag/gender variety show and dance party for the whole gender spectrum, and there were international and local Queer subculture superstars about to perform. For instance, the much-loved drag queen Aleksa Manila was hosting that night and bringing her usual warmth, generosity, fierce beauty, and pose. Performers included Jinkx Monsoon, The Luminous Pariah, Coranaya, Malaya Anja, Lovell L'Oreal, Donte Johnson, Theo Garcia, Nicole Masangkay, Phin Dauphe, and Raven Taylor. A community of youth and advocates for LGBTQ youth not only sponsored this event, but did intensive outreach for this night.
Those organizations consisted of Health Education Youth Outreach (HEYO) of Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Queer Youth Space (QYS), API Chaya's PANDICORNS, and their network of supporters. The organizations made calls and networked with youth providers from the north end all the way to South King County to get youth in the room. Also, QYS did tons of peer-to-peer outreach - in the days leading up to the event, I saw posters all over town and at other youth events. Before this night, every time I ran into youth on the streets, they would hand me a flyer to remind me about the night. The people in the room had worked hard and the streams of parents who conducted carpools, the bus tokens that were provided, and the service providers who brought vanloads of youth from distant locations all deserve much appreciation.
The walls were lined with community organizations like the NW Network playing games to discuss healthy friendships and relationships with prizes. Other organizations provided HIV testing and gave out $10 Starbucks gift cards through Gay City Health, and safe-sex packets designed for gender-variant partners created by Queer Youth Space were also distributed. There was so much momentum building up to the moment when heels, glitter, mustaches, beards, and a combination of all that and more hit the tiny stage at the front of the room.
DRAG SHOW VIRGINS
When Aleksa Manila began the show, there were not enough chairs because the crowd was so large. The audience was filled with under-24-year-olds and a few adult allies scattered in the audience with wristbands. Manila asked who had been to a drag performance before, and fewer than 25 youths' hands shot up in an audience of 250. When the answers were tallied, there was a sense that an historic moment was happening and that a cultural shift is possible in our world. The performers were a mix of seasoned and new, up-and-coming talent, political spoken-word, and historic drag. The audience was energized and there were many standing ovations.
To witness the look in their eyes was a rare moment that I hope happens again. As performers talked about sex in a joking fashion and in the same breath reminded audience members of its serious side, there was a sense of comfort and the acknowledgement of a 'head-nod' stating, 'It is okay to be you and feel what you feel - please take care and be safe.'
Performers talked about personal struggles where they felt alone and as hands shot up to praise and thank them for their words and performances, they stood in their glory (especially the youth ones), holding host Manila's hand as she reminded them to take it in, and that they deserve to be seen, and that they are not alone. That night, people walked in alone, dragging their feet in nervousness and excitement of the unknown, but by the end, everyone was dancing the night away. 'Gender Fierce' reminded me of a new generation of LGBTQ organizers, community members, educators, activists, artists, youth workers, service providers, and performers across the spectrum of culture, gender, and sexual diversity coming together in celebration, acceptance, and a willingness to learn from each other's stories of joy and pain.
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