About the series
The "Auburn voices from the pandemic" series is an oral history from The Plainsman of COVID-19 and how people are being affected by the disease.
As told to Elizabeth Hurley
As business operations come to a stand still and entertainment venues close, local drag shows and LGBTQ activities including Pride have been put on hold. Those heavily involved in operating these events say they can’t wait to get back, but want to make sure it is safe to do so.
The transcripts from each of their interviews with The Plainsman have been slightly edited for clarity and rearranged for structure to produce the following piece.
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Imberli, local drag queen
Drag shows have been on hold for over a month now. Our last show was right around when things started to get crazy. We decided to stop even before the stay at home order because we thought it was irresponsible not to consider everyone’s health and safety.
We shouldn’t have to be told to do something to protect that.
We all miss the shows. They made the week go faster, and I always had something to look forward to. Whenever I had downtime during the week I would work on the show for that week whether that was making a costume or getting my hair ready.
Now I have a lot of free time, so I’ve been working on shows for when we are able to reopen. As a performer, you don’t want to keep doing the same shows, so I’ve already planned four week’s worth of shows. I bought some new costumes and hair that I’m excited to use soon.
Not having the shows has hurt some performers financially. Performing is like a second job for a lot of us and a lot of us, including me, aren’t working either job right now.
It’s not just the performers. The DJs, bartenders, there are a lot of people that depend on these shows for a safe and fun environment and as a source of income.
Several other queens and I have been partnering with Support Local Drag, a Facebook page dedicated to sharing queens from across the globe that is rooted in the Auburn-Opelika area. We’ve participated in several Paint with the Queens live streams and other events.
From those events and just at other times people have been tipping us with venmo and cash app. I didn’t realize just how much many of the queens and I depend on those tips every week, and with unemployment and stimulus checks being so inconsistent, we’ve really apricated those online tips.
Those online events with Support Local Drag also give us a way to remind people that we’re still here and the shows are coming back. We’re just trying to make an effort to entertain people even though we’re all at home.
We’re still not sure when we’ll restart the shows. Once the state decides to open back up, we’ll meet with the staff at Irish Bred Pub and decide what we want to do. If it’s still bad, we don’t want to open up right away because we don’t want to put people in a situation where they can’t socially distance.
I know there are people ready to get out of their house and there are people that think we’re not ready. We’re just going to play with both sides and try to figure out what is best for everyone’s health and safety.
Just because there are no shows right now, doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about everything Irish Bred Pub has done for us. They’ve supported us for the last few years, so now it’s our time to support them.
Chad Peacock, Pride on The Plains President
As a postal worker this has been surreal. I’m not used to seeing everyone at home during the day. There have also been a lot of packages, way more than normal.
One of the things I miss most right now is seeing people and socializing. Before all of this I didn’t think I talked to that many people, especially on Saturdays during the drag shows, but now I see that I do. I miss seeing people smile, dance and just have fun.
As president of Pride on The Plains, the board and I had to make some tough choices about our upcoming events including our big Pride Festival. We hope everyone knows that we just want everyone to be safe and we miss them all.
Though we’ve had to cancel some events, it’s important right now to support the businesses that have supported us. They need us now more than ever.
We did cancel our Believe Ball before there was much word from the state. Health and safety are the most important thing to us, so we just made the call. We plan to continue this event, so we gave refunds or allowed people to donate their ticket purchase to Pride on The Plains or use it as their ticket for next year.
Our annual Pride Festival was also impacted. We normally hold it at the beginning of June and even if all of this ends before then, we want to give everyone a chance to come back from this before putting on a festival. It’s a lot to ask everyone right away to plan a festival.
We have been working on a new date and have already made some plans with the City of Auburn, but we’re not announcing anything until at least May 1 so that we know what the state is doing. The new date is at the end of the summer and before school starts.
Pride isn’t just a festival. It’s something you carry with you. You don’t have to have a festival to celebrate Pride. It’s something that is inside of you. It’s something you’re proud of and something you take with you every single day.
On that same note, I do have concerns right now for young people that might be stuck at home with family members that don’t support them or the LGBTQ community. They’re stuck in close quarters with them, but those young people just need to remember there is a community out here that loves and accepts them and our arms are open for you even with this going on.
You are always welcome to contact us, anyone from Pride on The Plains to the drag queens, we’ll make sure word gets to everyone and do what we can for you.
Read previous stories from The Plainsman's oral history series:
- While essential businesses like grocery stores remain open during the pandemic, some workers who interact with customers are concerned for their health and the health of others.
- Sadok Aounallah, an RA for the village dorms, talks about living alone in Auburn and his fears about COVID-19.
- Dr. Fred Kam, medical director at the Auburn University Medical Clinic, on what a day in the office entails during the pandemic.
- Jarious Avery, freshman in biomedical sciences, is one of many first-generation college students returning home after experiencing a sliver of college life.
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