The Pride of Queens: Celebrating Drag in Athens< < Back to
Tucked away among the many venues of Athens, Ohio sits the wine bar Athens Uncorked. A rainbow flag hangs from outside, welcoming all who come. The music is subtle and calm, but at least once every month there’s a new track, the volume turned up and accompanied by the quips of queens. The bar is transformed into a venue fit for a drag show. The performances not only provide entertainment, but are a celebration of pride in its own.
ShaVaughn “Pop” Peterson started doing drag when they were young, though they didn’t have a name for it. Now, they perform at Athens Uncorked’s drag shows. It’s been through drag that they’ve been able to learn more about the art and themself.
“With every performance you watch, drag or otherwise, what you take from that performance is informative of how you feel about yourself, who you think you are,” said Peterson.
Among the people who have learned from the drag queens at Athens Uncorked is Nate Hayes, the owner of the bar along with his sister, Kathy Blake. They created the bar to be an inclusive space for everyone, recognizing that there was a need for a place for the LGBT+ community to feel comfortable. But it’s more than just that community who comes to the drag shows.
You really get all these different kinds of people,” said Hayes. “You get people you would think you know are rednecks, you get people who are very posh, you know it’s really interesting how across the board it is.”
The drag shows at the wine bar are for everyone. On these nights, the queens work their magic, creating community among the patrons.
“The people literally breathe together and it’s a harmony typically only found in music,” said Peterson. “It’s unlike anything else you can experience, so definitely drag has the power to bring people together and to create community, and it does it every day.”
Drag queens have a long history of bringing people together, one of the most famous examples being the Riot at Stonewall where drag queens and transwomen took the first historically-recognized stand against LGBT+ injustices. A riot was the first Pride. Jasmyn Webb, a trans performer and the official show director at Athens Uncorked, has performed at 18 Pride events in the past eight years. It’s because of her predecessors that she attributes being able to perform.
“I think for sure that that goes back to Stone Wall and for sure the drag queens were the first ones to start the Pride rallies that have been by performing in the streets of New York City and protesting; it was just a gathering. So now that has paved a way for all of us to entertain, my goal is just to make people laugh and smile and have fun,” said Webb.
Webb herself has created a Pride event in the small town of Mansfield, Ohio. When she had first started organizing the event, she received death threats. There was rallying and picketing against the event, and Webb and other organizers were scared there would be gang involvement.
“I was scared to death to perform that day, but I did it,” said Webb. “We had over 3,000 people come from all over the United States. People came in from all over to participate in this Pride because it went so public and actually we only had a few demonstrators there, so it was very, it ended up being very lax.”
Mansfield Pride is now going on its third year. The pride that encouraged Webb to persist while creating the event is in Athens as well. Queens like Peterson can feel it.
“As someone who’s always outgoing and bubbly, I’ve never felt more loved, I’ve never felt more like a mascot for my community, I’ve never felt more like head cheerleader as I do in drag,” said Peterson.
Peterson, Webb and other queens perform at Athens Uncorked at least once a month, sharing not just smiles and laughs, but their pride and love for their community.