Edmonton drag performer reflects on hostility towards 2SLGBTQ+ community, Pride events

An Edmonton drag performer reflects on the hostility towards the 2SLGBTQ+ community during Pride month. Laura Krause has more on why Felicia Grayson feels Pride should be talked about year round.

Edmonton drag performer Felicia Grayson is well aware of the hostility that surrounds who she is and what she does – but that’s not stopping her from being herself.

The trans woman sees clearly what’s happening in Alberta: vandalized Pride crosswalks and murals, unrest at city council public debates, and the burning of Pride flags.

Elsewhere in Canada, there are gender ideology protests and discussions of book bans.

“You can agree with us or not, but we still exist,” Grayson told CityNews. “We’re still here. If you don’t like it, don’t take part.

“There’s nothing you can do to stop making me queer, there is nothing you can do to stop me being trans.”

It’s all part of what appears to be unrest in the country when it comes to transgender rights and other gender issues – potentially magnified during Pride Month in Canada.

Alberta RCMP is reporting a spike in hate-motivated incidents targeting the 2SLGBTQ+ community in various towns and cities in the province.

“If there are other places that have hatred that is very tangible, and they are outwardly discussing it all the time, those are places we need to focus in on and say, ‘hey, it’s OK to not like something, but at the same time you can’t come here and complain about someone trying to live their lives.’

“I pay rent, I do grocery shopping, I’m going fishing with my dad this weekend, I have a life, just like everyone else. Everyone thinks I’m part of this whole big movement, but I’m just trying to live my life.”

WATCH: ‘Hate has no place in Alberta:’ RCMP warn of spike in anti-2SLGBTQ+ hate

Protest at drag queen story time

And Grayson was at the heart of it last summer, when her drag queen story time for kids at the Edmonton Public Library attracted a small but vocal group of protesters.

READ: Protesters attempt to disrupt drag queen story time at Edmonton library

“It was certainly the biggest protest that I’ve noticed in the last year,” she said. “Those story time readings had been going on all summer. It wasn’t until it was my reading at the downtown library, they decided to protest the most. Again, it was people coming down with no information on what we are doing there. We’re trying to read them a book that is available in the public library, we are trying to encourage these kids to read, and just to represent ourselves to the community in the same way any other career does.

“They have nothing better to do, they are coming here with defamatory signs and lies, and information that they got off Facebook that is incorrect, just because they want to yell at something and be mad at something. They aren’t trying to have conversations with us, they aren’t trying to understand us.”

Protesters and counter-protesters at drag queen story time event outside Edmonton Public Library on Aug. 6, 2022. (Credit: CityNews/Sarah Chew)

Grayson says if anything, she felt emboldened by the negative response.

“I push through it because if we don’t, they win,” said the drag performer. “I don’t want to give them the satisfaction that them standing on a street corner yelling about things that they don’t understand are going to make me hide. I’m not scared, I’m really infuriated that people feel the need to come to my place of work, to stand outside and yell and scream and degrade me for whatever reason they feel.

“There’s all this hate in the world. And there are people who aren’t as strong as me who are hiding and aren’t coming out because of all the hate going on. And that’s what they want, they want people to suppress themselves and be quiet and go on about their lives.”

Drag artist Felicia Bonée on Aug. 6, 2022. (Credit: CityNews/Sarah Chew)

‘The world is becoming a safer space’

But being quiet is one thing Grayson refuses to do. She’s speaking out about these incidents and how she’s pushing through them to represent the community.

“I want to show people that proudly and not shrink away and hide,” said Grayson. “I need to be public, I need to be visible so other people can see that and either understand I exist, or if you see yourself in me, then I am representing that part of the community in you.”

Grayson says speaking out is especially important during a period where tensions are magnified in Alberta and across Canada.

“Pride is important all year round, Pride Month is just an organized time for people to focus in on LGBTQ rights, LGBTQ existence, and really for representation. That is the biggest thing, to show people we are here, to show children and people who might not be out in the LGBTQ community that the world is becoming a safer space, and we need to make sure that people understand that.”

Edmonton drag performer Felicia Grayson (right). (Submitted by: Felicia Grayson)

It’s about representation, Grayson says

She says moments like the one Tuesday night in Westlock, where the community came out to paint a Pride crosswalk, are clear signs of progress. Grayson describes those crosswalks as “safe spaces” where the community – especially children – can feel seen.

“It comes down to that representation, especially in those smaller communities like Westlock where there might not be the most queer people, but at the same time there might not be many queer people because they don’t feel comfortable in a space like that. So having city councillors, and half of the town come out to show their support for queerness is a really big step towards showing acceptance in that smaller town.”

Grayson ultimately hopes that by speaking out and standing strong in the face of hostility can inspire others to be themselves – when they’re fully ready to do so.

“Don’t do anything that you feel will make you feel unsafe,” she said. “There’s a lot of community resources. There are queer spaces for adults, there are queer spaces for kids. If you can find access to those resources, and at least have conversations with those people, I would definitely say that would be helpful so you don’t feel alone.”

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