On the ground with drag queens on Capitol Hill

‘We aren’t trying to shove our lifestyle down your throats’

drag queens moveon
Drag performers Jiggly Caliente, Brigitte Bandit and Joey Jay pose for a photo with a fellow drag performer on the Capitol steps (Getty)
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A group of around thirty people gathered on the lawn of the United States Capitol Building to hear speeches from three drag queens on Tuesday.

MoveOn Political Action organized the event to champion the Equality Act and the Transgender Bill of Rights. The lobbying day came at the heels of the new polling that a “healthy majority of Americans across the political spectrum support federal legislation protecting LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Jiggly Caliente spoke first, addressing her gratitude for being on RuPaul’s Drag Race and for the blessing of being able to be your true self. “I have always…

A group of around thirty people gathered on the lawn of the United States Capitol Building to hear speeches from three drag queens on Tuesday.

MoveOn Political Action organized the event to champion the Equality Act and the Transgender Bill of Rights. The lobbying day came at the heels of the new polling that a “healthy majority of Americans across the political spectrum support federal legislation protecting LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Jiggly Caliente spoke first, addressing her gratitude for being on RuPaul’s Drag Race and for the blessing of being able to be your true self. “I have always known that I was living in a shell that didn’t align with my soul,” she said. Jiggly, or Bianca, accused politicians of blocking local and up-and-coming drag queens from making money. Jiggly’s net worth was at $1.5 million in 2021.

Drag queens Joey Jay and Brigitte Bandit spoke next and discussed hate crimes, privilege and healthcare. “I stand before you today not just driven by emotion but driven by facts,” Joey claimed. He claimed that in 2023 alone, 320 trans lives were taken away from them and more than 4,600 transgender people have been killed in hate crimes (he made it sound like this was since 2008).

Among the rainbow talk, some red, white and blue trickled into the queens’ rhetoric. Brigitte Bandit called herself a “proud Texan.” Bianca and Joey centered on the fact that they’re not forcing anyone to accept anything. “I’m not asking you to love me or fully embrace my community, but to merely accept that this is a shared world with a common future and that we deserve to exist,” Bianca said. “To conservatives I say, there is no gay agenda.” Joey said. “We aren’t trying to shove our lifestyle down your throats. We are just trying to live lives in peace without fear of being murdered and of being a lesser citizen than the rest of you.”

Joey went on to talk about the vision of America. “​As children we learned about this melting pot. We learned about racism, slavery, celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. and we’re taught that we could be anything we wanted to be, even the president,” Joey said. “We learned that America was the best country in the world. A country of acceptance that didn’t want to repeat its past. A country of freedom, liberty, and justice for all. But now all of that feels like a lie.”

Brigitte expounded upon what a country of freedom, liberty and justice looks like. “Everyone deserves their right to self-expression, healthcare access, a proper education and bodily autonomy, especially as Americans.” Later in the speech Brigitte said, “Queer Texans and Americans belong. Queer people deserve the same rights and freedoms as any other American. We deserve to live without discrimination and fear. And we also deserve to be seen and celebrated.”

Is this vision of America the queens’ promote consistent with the land of liberty we all know? I learned that maybe, in a way, it was. I showed up on the lawn of the Capitol near House Triangle at 1:15 p.m. as the email from MoveOn described. Finding nothing, I wandered around until I came across a group of seven or so people with rainbow umbrellas, a man dressed in a gladiator suit with a rainbow flag and cape, a furry and a fabulously dressed drag queen. They were all very nice. We were confused about where the event was taking place. After re-situating a couple of times, we finally found the event location. I met a representative of a group that fights for Drag Queen Story Hour at schools. She kindly offered me a rainbow umbrella.

A few more audience members joined us once the event finally started around 1:40. It was a small but dedicated group. The whole experience was kind of bizarre. I learned that not many people wake up one morning and say “I want to ruin children’s lives today.” The activists on the Capitol lawn sincerely believe that their rights are being taken away, and when it comes to being the victim of crime, that might be true. But none of us has the “right” to be seen, celebrated or taken care of. The age-old debate shows that a body of legislators can’t provide anything for you without the use of force. And while the use of force should be employed to prevent murder, you cannot and should not force another person to celebrate or see you.