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Culture

‘We are a symbol for diversity’: why these drag queens are protesting Trump’s UK visit

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A group of drag queens and kings are organising a protest for Trump's visit to Britain on July 13 to throw some shade at the amateur-in-chief

Anna Freeman

03 Mayo 2018 15:16

No one is untouched by politics in this post-Trumpian reality. That is why a group of fierce drag kings and queens will be descending on the UK capital, London, when the tangerine-tinted, purse-lipped amateur-in-chief himself visits the country on July 13.

‘We’re vocal and visible queer people and we are going to throw ourselves into this because it has a global agenda,’ says Cheddar Gorgeous, a leading figure in Manchester’s drag scene who is organising a mass protest for US President Donald Trump’s arrival to Britain. ‘Trump hasn’t attacked just one group of people globally; the issues cut across different nations, minorities, ethnic groups and international communities. We all need to stand up for one another.’

A formal invite has been extended to the president amid fierce backlash among the UK’s citizens and leading politicians, including those from the ruling Conservative Party. While an official state visit was tabled, he will pay a ‘working visit’ for just one day, where swathes of protests have been called (including a truly British ‘mass mooning’ where crowds will drop trousers and parade their backsides at Trump). The Drag Protest Against Trump UK Visit, however, feels like the most fitting response to Trump’s deeply conservative and marginalising administration. A president who is one, long, endless bad joke after another should not have his policies courted - they should be satirised. Enter the drag squad.

Cheddar Gorgeous Instagram/JAGC PHOTOGRAPHY

Despite claiming that he was an LGBTQAI+ ally in his campaign and in the wake of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, Cheddar says Trump has systematically targeted the community with policy amendments and cabinet selections. He reinstated a blanket ban on military personnel entering the US military, manoeuvred figures with deeply homophobic views into positions of power, tried to withdraw some rights of gay people in the workplace, and backed a cake shop that refused to make a gay wedding cake. ‘Trump also failed to recognise pride last month, and that is just unforgivable,’ Cheddar adds.

The power of drag as a subversive form of protest has a long history. From HIV campaigning to the Stonewall riots, disruptive drag kings and queens have played a pivotal role in social justice issues as an anti-establishment genderfuck army. The act itself plays with the performativity of identity and culture - and, of course, gender - in a way that celebrates difference. As Cheddar points out, drag is an apt metaphor for diversity, in that the community becomes a symbol for other causes as well as its own.

'We put our differentness on display in such a spectacular way. We are aggressively showing that we are different. And that is what Trump needs to see.'

Cheddar Gorgeous

Much of the UK - particularly in large cities like London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool - prides itself on multiculturalism and tolerance, but Brexit has landed a blow to such ideals and has raised questions about what the nation's future holds. As Britain prepares to leave the EU, its global influence is shrinking and it is no surprise that UK Prime Minister Theresa May wants to clutch onto the hands of Trump (and the US) as hard as she possibly can.

However, with the reality TV star-turned-president’s xenophobic attitudes towards Muslims in general (who make up a large proportion of the UK’s population), and to London Mayor Sadiq Khan in particular, many Britons are rightly outraged. Additionally, his stance on almost everything - from women, to race, to education, to ‘fake news’ - has made him one of the least welcome politicians in recent history.

Donald Trump/Photoshop by PG Art

Rather than deny him access, though, Cheddar says he should be welcomed to the UK so he can be shown the door. ‘I want him to visit,’ Cheddar tells me, ‘I want him to see the anger. The protest. He needs to know that here in the UK we take an attack on people from different minorities seriously. The “special relationship” between our countries is not given regardless - it is not unconditional.’

In the ‘90s, New York activists used the slogan Silence = Death to protest the US government’s handling of the Aids crisis among gay men, and Cheddar says the phrase remains as relevant as ever. Visibility, disruption, provocation - that’s what drag is all about. It can also be a very effective way of saying ‘fuck-you’ to a man so emblematic of toxic white masculinity. For anyone who wants to join Cheddar and his drag family’s rebuke of Trumpian politics, head down to 10 Downing Street on July 13. Remember to bring all the shade you have at your disposal.

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