Featured photo: Winston-Salem’s painting of the new Pride mural downtown went off without a hitch. (photo by John Armbruster)

Allowing last week’s TCB article to be the period on the sentence of Winston-Salem during Pride Month left a bad taste in my mouth. 

Having been able to observe all of the events after the Radar Brewing Drag Brunch in real time, including the actions of the community afterward — all of the phone calls, the messages, the texts — I knew something needed to be said about the citizens of Winston-Salem.

After the Triad City Beat article, communication bloomed across Winston-Salem. Friends started calling, texting, telling them about what happened at Radar Brewing and asking those friends to not only attend these events going forward, but to keep their eyes open and their phones ready to dial the non-emergency line of the Winston-Salem Police Department for assistance. 

At Camel City Playhouse, they donned coordinated T-shirts and offered escorts to attendees to and from their vehicles. 

Drag queen CC Labrie sings as she sits on the lap of Jacob Gordon at The Dating Game at the Camel City Playhouse in Winston-Salem N.C., on July 9, 2022.

“I felt very aware, but very safe,” says local drag performer CC LaBrie  “I’ve lived in large cities and always been very aware of my surroundings. My guard has been down for the past few years, and last Saturday brought it back up, so it was good to have that community support from invisible eyes. The majority of those who attended to protest the Drag Brunch at Radar Brewing weren’t even from here. I feel like that really said something about the community of Winston-Salem, that the anti-drag protestors had to come from hours away. The outpouring of love and support from the Winston-Salem post-drag brunch has been great.”

LaBrie explained how after TCB’s article came out, the owner of Joymongers sat down with her after her drag show at the business and asked her how she was… It’s  the same love and support she saw during Art Crush, LaBrie says. 

“All of the love from the community reminds me of why I continue to perform and why I know there is still a lot of work to do,” she says.

Drag performer Anna Yacht reflected on the aftermath of the Proud Boys coming to town, too.

Drag performer Anna Yacht

“It brought the community together and helped shine a light on how the togetherness of the local community can make a difference,” Yacht says. “Pride is all about being the best version of yourself that you can be. Coming together and celebrating each other in love. People love to obsess over these little short headlines and soundbites and miss the larger, better things that happen. People always want to rewrite the narrative to be something worse than it is.”

Despite the fact that right-wing conservatives have begun to villainize drag culture, saying it preys upon children, nothing could be further from the truth. 

“My idea of being able to use drag to make some changes and find other talented people and give them a platform to do their art, in an accessible and fun way, is my main goal with my drag. I am trying to give the community my best as a leader,” Anna Yacht says. “Presenting as a woman is seen as an inherently sexual thing, whether you are acting sexually or not. I do drag to embrace the female energy I’ve found within myself, as a performer and an entertainer and it makes people uncomfortable,  but there is nothing sexy about being in a corset for eight hours and taking it off, and looking like you’ve been roasted on a George Foreman grill. You are not sexy after performances.

“Drag is not about the controversy and we don’t want to alter our interactions with the community based on the threat of something bad happening,” Yacht continued.

Instead, Yacht says that increased visibility of the LGBTQIA2S+ community is what the hard right is threatened by.

“Because LGTBQIA2S+ community members are different, because they’re not cis white men that everyone is so used to seeing at the forefront of everything, now that things are changing, some people are feeling threatened and are struggling to keep the world as something they understand, instead of learning about the changes,” she says. “They choose to threaten people’s safety instead of letting folks just be the people they are.”

I had a phone call with my parents immediately after I left Radar Brewing, two folks from the silent generation, who recounted the time members of the KKK visited my ancestral hometown generations ago. The event feels like a throughline to what took place a few weekends ago at Radar Brewing.

“This sounds very similar,” my mother said. “Your great-grandfather told them they should be ashamed of themselves for terrorizing the community.”

But the best community support is the community itself.

And Winston-Salem has shown that we are not only supportive of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, we ARE that community.

“The community coordination and presence is something above and beyond what we ever could have asked for,” Yacht says. “The fact that the community coordination all came from a place of genuine concern, not looking for acknowledgement, is a statement to the love folks have for their neighbors in Winston-Salem. The counter protests, the pro-LGBTQIA+ allies, are so important…. These anti-LGBTQIA2S+ protestors who are so angry, showing up and wanting to hurt other people, emotionally or physically, should not feel that they have enough power to possibly set any plan into action.”

The community of Winston-Salem has made its voice heard, loud and clear. Intolerance is not welcome here. So, if you’re with us, come out to Pride Winston-Salem on Saturday, June 24 and celebrate, because we all belong here.

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