Asbury Park’s Ryan Jimenez took action after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee targeted LGBTQ people by outlawing drag and cabaret performers. And after Jimenez took action more anti-drag and more anti-trans “copy cat” legislation followed in at least 14 other states. Some of those states are Kentucky, Oklahoma, Florida and Arizona. In response, Jimenez, along with Paradise Night Club and the City of Asbury Park, declared May 7 “Drag Queen Visibility Day.”
The day comes in support of LGBTQ community members affected by drag bans across the United States. Paradise will hold a day-long event highlighting various drag performers to show that drag is more than just entertainment.
“The moment they started passing anti-drag laws, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Jimenez said. “It was important to me that Asbury Park do what Asbury Park does, and that is to be at the forefront of issues.”
Many people know Jimenez for his organizing. When Jimenez was the general manager at Hotel Tides, now the St. Laurent Social Club, he produced numerous annual events. One, the adult Pink Prom and its after party, raised up to $40,000 over the years for various LGBTQ organizations, including the Pride Network, Project REAL and many others.
He continues this work wherever he goes. “We want everyone in the United States to know that Paradise, Asbury [Park], and the community hear you and see you,” said Jimenez.
The Tennessee law, known as Senate Bill 3, states: “‘Adult cabaret performance’ means a performance in a location other than an adult cabaret that features topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration.”
For Anita Sigg, an Asbury Park drag queen, the language in the bill is very troubling. “It’s about limiting the existence of trans people in the daylight,” said the performer. “So while, obviously, drag queens are falling under the attack of the ignorant linguistic specifications of what Republicans or conservatives think trans is, it’s important that we acknowledge that it’s more so our trans siblings that are coming under attack.”
New Jersey Drag Queen Lady Celestina agree. “These laws are merely masqueraded anti-trans legislation, and a distraction from gun reform.” Lady Celestina says, the legislation is “all tied together.”
The lawmakers’ lack of distinction, and their conflation of drag (gender expression) and being trans (gender identity), is what Anita Sigg and Lady Celestina find dangerous. They wish the media and the mainstream conversations around drag bans had a more nuanced understanding of the dangers to trans people and many diverse drag artists of various genders.
“It’s important for drag queens to lead the charge,” Sigg said. “The ones that are cis men out of drag have a little more leeway and privilege to navigate spaces with our oppressors, more than the trans women that are drag queens, more than the trans people that do drag in general.”
Anita Sigg won’t be performing at Paradise on Sunday. However, the self-described “Gaba-GHOUL of New Jersey” will be present and she will be in drag.
Lady Celestina too. Known as the top-hatted, Broadway diva, she is happy to be a part of Drag Queen Visibility Day. “With everything happening in Tennessee and Florida, it’s incredibly important that we show up and show out,” she said. The drag queen believes that drag helps to unite communities together. “Unity strengthens us. Strength gives us hope. No one knows that better than Ryan,” Lady Celestina continued.
“We will not be threatened by these ignorant, uneducated people. We have always been here and we always will be,” said the drag queen.
Drag Queen Visibility Day attendees can expect events to happen throughout the day. The day will begin with Jolina Jasmine hosting Drag Queen Story Hour at 1pm in the Empress Hotel lobby. The night will end with Bella Sky hosting karaoke in the Copper Bar at 9pm until closing. Of course, there will be numerous events all throughout the day.
All events prior to 5pm will be a suggested donation of $5. All events after 5pm, will be a $10 cash cover charge. A portion of the queens’ tips and other proceeds will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign.