This march served lewks.
Fishnet bodysuits, tiaras and opera masks were just some of the outfits at the first ever It’s All Drag March held in The Grove on Saturday, March 25.
At this protest, what people wore meant everything. As one sign read, “I can wear whatever the hell I want to wear!” Protesters were marching against statewide and national bills that have been aimed at limiting drag performances in public spaces.
Chris Andoe, who helped organize the event, says the march was motivated by the recent Tennessee bill which bans all “Adult cabaret performance” in any location in public, particularly drag story time shows held at libraries and nonprofits for children.
Chris Andoe, who identifies as a cisgendered male and gay, wore a black and white ’50’s inspired dress. He matched it with a pair of white kitten heels and a silver bobbed wig.
“This is much bigger than drag. It’s any kind of gender expression. They’re just trying to shove us back in. And I think its because they don’t have an answer for the assault rifles,” Andoe said, referring to the current epidemic of school shootings and gun violence nationwide.
Andoe also said that he believes the bill passed in Tennessee and proposed in Missouri are part of a bigger issue.
“They’re killing kids. I think this is the ultimate deflection for the real problem. But I think in solidarity, we all just need to, you know, represent it.”
The Missouri legislature has also been targeting drag shows and introducing other anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. HB 1364 for instance, a bill introduced on March 1 by representative Bennie Cook of Texas County, would make any drag performance geared toward minors a misdemeanor. Any public or charter school that violates this proposed legislation would lose federal funding, even if the violation was committed by a volunteer.
Sean Abernathy and Jade Sinclair, owners of Prism; Riverfront Times Society Columnist Chris Andoe; and Pride St. Louis’ Jordan Elizabeth Braxton helped create the ad hoc group that led the march down Manchester Avenue.
The evening began with a sign-making workshop outside of Rehab Bar at 5:30 pm. At one point, a car drove by, minutes before the march began, and a passenger yelled a derogatory slur at the crowd. No one reacted and everyone just continued to organize.
A local family, who wished to remain anonymous, said they wanted to participate due to their youngest son’s desire to wear a dress. The mother said, “he’s never worn it out of the house because he knows it would cause issues.”
At the march, the child frolicked around in his classic prairie dress. His sibling, on the other hand, remained frightened of being targeted. His mother reassured him, “I got you. I wouldn’t take you anywhere I didn’t think was safe.”
Another reminder that even in the predominantly LGBTQ+ area of The Grove, there is still tension and danger.
Before the march, organizer Jade Sinclair spoke about how bills targeting drag shows affect her professionally and personally. “These bills are threatening my business. I’m here to protest. I’m going to do what I can to educate our community to prevent these bills from going any further. There’s gun violence and other dangers which are hard on children. We [Sinclair and other drag performers] are not out there trying to hurt the children. We are trying to be positive influences on children and adults alike.”
Sinclair said performing drag is how, “I learned inner confidence. …. I always was a very timid person, because I knew I was different. It took putting on makeup and a wig to find the inner strength already inside me.”
The march began at 6 p.m., making a near mile trek from Rehab to Prism. People came out of the business which line Manchester to cheer on participants. Marchers chanted “Hey hey, hey ho, homophobia has got to go,” and sprinkled glitter as they walked.
Former Clayton school district art teacher Jill Picker was marching for the nonprofit Blue Missouri. Though retired, she felt that if given the chance, she would love to show drag in the classroom. She felt the laws were far too restrictive and dangerous for all art in their current form.
“Under these laws, I wouldn’t be able to show the statue of David. I believe these shows should be in the classroom. Drag is art, absolutely. Drag is beautiful, fun, funny. Don’t we all want to dress up and play pretend sometimes?”
The march ended at the outdoor patio of Prism, where Out in STL handed out its ICON Awards.
Akasha Royale, Maxi Glamour and Jordan Elizabeth Braxton all traveled to Jefferson City to successfully convince lawmakers not to pass a drag ban similar to the one in Tennessee.
Mayor Tishaura Jones was also in attendance. After the awards, Jones took the stage with her family member Beverly.
Hand in hand with Beverly, Jones said to the crowd, “Beverly is the reason I fight so hard for your community. They are so beautiful to me.”
“I stand here in tears, as our state legislature attempts to control our bodies, their body,” Jones said, gesturing to Beverly, “and everyone’s bodies. But I have a message to them: If you don’t like drag shows, don’t go to one! We refuse to allow our neighbors to be targeted and attacked. To target our trans youth in particular is just disgusting. I want to thank all of the advocates for working to defeat the drag ban. Let’s claim victory where we can, but we have a lot more work to do.”
Jones created an LGBTQ+ advisory board to go over policies the city enacts. St. Louis county is working with PROMO, a local LGBTQ+ advocacy group, on a similar task force.
Though a serious march and matter, the night ended with festivities and joy. Attendees stayed and watched drag shows, got drinks at Prism, and walked around The Grove.
Two-year-old Eugene had one thing to say while stroller-ing home in solidarity with family friend Ben (who identifies as trans): “I love Ben! Human rights!”
See, Missouri legislature? Even a toddler gets it. You go, Eugene.