ALBANY N.Y. (NEWS10) — A recent mental health survey from The Trevor Project revealed that 41% of young people in the LGBTQ community have seriously contemplated suicide in the last year. Over a dozen Capital Region drag queens have partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for the upcoming “Drag Away the Stigma” fundraiser.
Across the country, drag queens have been in the spotlight as conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups push for legislation to restrict drag performances. Tennessee approved a bill to ban “adult cabaret performances” within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, or places of worship on March 2, 2023.
“It really does hurt your heart,” Thomas Nolan, known in the Albany drag community as Sister Alphena Omega, said. “We love to do [drag]. And these people are being told if you do it, you’re a criminal.”
Lawmakers in at least 15 states have proposed some form of legislation to restrict drag shows. In recent months, protesters have rallied at adult drag shows and book readings for children. Some believe the performers are inappropriate for kids’ entertainment or for public consumption.
Frank Hillebrand, a staple of the Albany drag community for over 30 years as “Amanda Love,” is saddened by the hate he’s seen online the past year. “These people have nothing better to do,” Hilllebran said. “It’s really hard for me to watch because it doesn’t happen here.”
However, last month, a drag story hour for kids at the Lake Luzerne Library was postponed after concern from some community members. In response, local drag queens have organized a fundraiser with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“It’s a thing that hits home for myself and a lot of the community,” Nolan said. “When you have so many people out there in the community that are throwing hate on you, you eventually feel ‘okay, well, maybe I’m bad, and you’re not.”
This Saturday, the Brunswick Elks Lodge will transform into a stage for the“Drag Away the Stigma” event. The performers hope to create a positive culture surrounding mental health while putting on a fabulous show.
Hillebrand and Nolan will serve as hosts. The duo guarantees a night of fun full of live performances and “death drops.” Tickets for Drag Away the Stigma are available online or at the door. Performances begin at 8 p.m. at the Brunswick Elks Lodge in Troy on Saturday, May 6.
Hillebrand said it’s the perfect opportunity for people to give drag a chance. “Come out, watch a show, then make your judgment,” Hillebrand said. “If you can walk out of there not happy or not saying, ‘Oh my god, did you see what they did? Oh my god, that was awesome,’ then fine.”