Social Justice: a QWOC Perspective

Written by Sarah Zuniga

Over the weekend, I watched Chicago’s Black Drag Council Town Hall. The Town Hall featured several Black entertainers in the Chicago area speaking out against white performers and predominantly white clubs and bars in Boystown and the North Side. More than 50 folks from the drag community in Chicago openly signed onto a list of demands against Ben, known by their drag name T Rex, former host for Berlin and Roscoe’s.  

As Madi has written about before, Pride began as a riot and Pride was led by Black and Brown trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. When non-Black folks in the LGBTQIA+ community lament the fact that Pride is “cancelled” this year due to coronavirus, we do a disservice to the legacy of Marsha and Sylvia and others. Especially as literal riots are occuring. Especially as protests against police violence and advocating for police abolition are occuring. 

I know several people from Chicago and Illinois who have watched this town hall, but this is not enough. Chicago is a space for folks in the suburbs, beyond the suburbs, in Indiana and Wisconsin, and from around the world to come and celebrate and participate in the clubs and nightlife. I can easily count off of my fingers the number of white gay people I know from my hometown, my college town, and the surrounding areas, all in Illinois, who have gone to Roscoe’s, Berlin, and other notable bars here to party for Pride, their birthdays, their bridal showers (this furiates me for many reasons), etc.

I identify as a fat, biracial, queer, demisexual cis woman, and I’m also white-passing. I have predominantly benefitted from white privilege in the spaces that I occupy. However, other parts of my identity have caused me to often feel unwelcome in some gay bars and nightclubs, because they focus and cater to white, gay, cis men. I have never set foot in Roscoe’s. I have never set foot in Berlin. I’ve spent a total of less than an hour in Boystown before COVID. 

This post is short, but for good reason. Over the past weekend, I’ve spent many hours not only watching the town hall, but also researching and reading more about the drag community in Chicago and reading testimonies shared from Black performers who spoke at the town hall, such as Zola and Lucy Stoole and Bambi Banks-Couleé. I want you to read this post, and use this as a springboard to start researching the drag community in your local area. Even if you live in a rural area, where do people go? Do they drive three hours to a club (probably yes)? What are the clubs? Who is performing? Who is showcased on posters and social media? Are they white? Are they drag queens? Are they skinny? 

Antiracism work is just that – work. And good work involves time and care put into it. Take time and care today to learn the names of Black performers. Of Black trans entertainers. Of Black queens and kings. Learn what you need to do to work and be an ally.

Sarah identifies as a fat, biracial, queer, demisexual cis woman. She is a current Master of Divinity student at the University of Chicago. She is a proponent of multiple social justice issues and has been a great friend to me. I trust her words, thoughts, and judgements and I hope you enjoy this piece by her.