“We’re Here” brings LGBTQ visibility to rural, conservative America

Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara, and Shangela star in “We’re Here.” (Photo: HBO)

All Drag shows are not the same. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” panders while “We’re Here” on HBO creates change. 

Watching “Drag Race” you’ll be entertained by the same old bitchy comments and finger snaps all the while making RuPaul very successful. Many of those who have been on her show for the last 13 years have gone on to make a successful living entertaining. But what made the show unique in 2009 is not enough anymore.

On the other hand, there are three former “Drag Race” contestants — Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara, and Shangela Laquifa Wadley — who have taken drag to a new level, one that creates change each week not for a few individuals but to entire cities and towns. The show is called “We’re Here,” and it airs on HBO.

Here’s the skinny. Each episode these outrageous queens with their flamboyant outfits and makeup head to a new location and adopts a drag daughter (usually somebody from the LGBTQ+ community or an ally). Each of those adoptees has various issues with their sexuality, coming out, family problems, or living in a city that is down right hostile to the LGBTQ people. You follow the story as the queens prepare their adoptee for a professional performance and you hear about their lives and struggles and how this performance will allow them to express themselves. 

So do you think their show plays it safe in cities like NYC, Los Angeles, or San Francisco? No, try the predominantly Mormon community of TwinFalls, Idaho; Branson, Missouri; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Farmington and Shiprock, New Mexico; Ruston, Louisiana; and the border town of Del Rio, Texas. In other words they take their show to the people in the places who need it most. This show speaks to my heart and my life’s work for our struggle for Equality. It’s summed up in one word: VISIBILITY! And these queens do it in style. 

Drag might not be your thing, and you may not believe that it can help our cause for equality, but when these queens hit a town, not only adopting drag daughters, but personally walking down the streets of the cities in full fabulous drag handing out flyers to attend a drag show…. the discussions are meaningful and yes, life changing.

Take Selma, Alabama, one of the holiest places of the civil rights movement. It’s a very conservative Black community. The three adoptees in Sema tell the same story of keeping their sexuality down low, or dealing with violence because of their gender identity. Bringing this show to Selma was dramatic and brave to say the least. The queens also brought out a few of the marchers who did the Edmund Pettus Bridge demonstration with Dr, Martin L. King Jr. and future congressman John Lewis, and they connected the LGBT community to that heralding moment in history. That brings dialogue, and dialogue always brings visibility.

This Stonewall pioneer fighting for visibility now for 53 years has to say: welcome to the club, girls!

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