After Youth Suicide, Drag Performers Work to Counter Bullying

Two local drag performers spoke about their outreach efforts following a gay teen's suicide (Source:Screen grab / WZDX)

(Edge) The suicide of a bullied 15-year-old in Huntsville, Alabama, has sparked efforts to reach out to LGBTQ youth and also provide education around the issue of bullying.

Nigel Shelby died by his own hand after being bullied for being gay, reported Market News.

Shelby reportedly died on April 19 — which was also Good Friday, the day that in Christian tradition marks the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.

Two drag performers were part of that outreach, addressing the issue of bullying on Easter Sunday.

"Drag entertainers were the first activists in our community," the performers told local news station WZDX.

The pair said they wanted to let LGBTQ youth know that there is support available for them if they need it. The news station also covered the drag performers' outreach at their website, RocketCityNow.com.

The performers cited the prominent role played by drag and trans individuals at the Stonewall uprising, which took place 50 years ago this coming June.

Noting that even after half a century there are still "tragic events" such as LGBTQ youth suicide, which advocates say is driven in large part by bullying at school, along with rejection by family and religious communities.

"We really need to showcase all of the organizations in town that can help the youth in case they are feeling like they are alone, or they aren't loved," the drag performers went on to say. "There's a whole community here that does love them, no matter what."

"Gay, straight, blue, green — it doesn't matter who or what we are.... we still need to hear that message of acceptance." 

"Find someone you trust. Find a teacher. Find a drag queen," they added. "But talk to someone." They went on to note that "it sounds super cliché, but... it really does get better."

The fact the performers were there to talk to youth on Easter Sunday was proof of that, they said. 

The pair had "probably thirty years between the two of us as entertainers," they said, "and we never, ever thought that we would be able to stand in public on Easter Sunday... and have a voice to the community."

Unless laws specifically address the needs of LGBTQ youth — such as banning bullying — authorities at school won't do anything to stop it, they contended.

"People have to be held accountable, and until our state [legislators] say that they have to do that," bullies will "be able to run amuck and do whatever they want."

With the mainstreaming of drag as an art form and entertainment — by way of "RuPaul's Drag Race" and the FX drama "Pose," for instance — drag has become more widely accepted. Drag performers have been making efforts at outreach recently, with drag performers offering story hours at venues such as public libraries. Last fall, a middle school in Colorado included a drag performer as part of an event promoting literacy as key to career success.

But though events such as drag story hour have proven popular with the general public, there are those who strongly oppose such outreach efforts. Earlier this year, an armed Trump supporter and conservative radio hostwho had been banned from a public library was escorted out of a Houston library after he attempted to enter the building during one such event. The radio host had been barred from the library for taking a video of people's children without permission, media sources said.

For the performers in Huntsville, it came down to the simple fact that youth — all youth — are the future. "If we don't build a future," they told WZDX, "there's going to be no future."

GoFundMe page has been set up to aid Nigel's family.


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