Monday, August 31, 2015

The Wheelchair is a Drag

Let me make one point clear: We were ecstatic when Chastity Rose, one of the most recognizable Central Florida drag queens agreed to spend a day in a wheelchair and then perform in it. I felt it sent a really powerful message about community coming together for an important cause. A community after all has different groups, that may not see eye to eye, but at the same time it's so much more than a sum of it's segments. We needed a strong presence in the LGBTQ segment and we got it in the form of a loud, unapologetic, fierce performance. There was never a thought in my- or any of my board members' minds- that it may be inappropriate. We realized that for some people it may be too much, but then- not everybody will have the same appeal to everyone else. The mission was always clear- to have people of different backgrounds  come together for this project and incorporate a wheelchair into their lives. The only genuine concern that someone has was whether Chastity would approach the project seriously rather than as a prop to boost her performance. But here's the thing that nobody thinks about - and I often don't know how to express it without making it sound depressing. Disability can happen to everybody. You can be of any gender, race, color, religion, gender, profession- you could be walking one day and using a wheelchair the next. Our hope for anyone that finds themselves with a mobility restriction is that they would be able to go on with most aspects of their life as usual, to maintain the same level of social interaction, passion and character. What Chastity has done for us - and I hope this will become more evident when the video comes out- was to show that regardless of people's often shocked reactions it's OK. A wheelchair is a vehicle, it's a tool, it doesn't change who you are. So when somebody said, maybe it would feel rude, in your face, offensive perhaps, I thought I certainly hope so- Chastity Rose is a fierce performer who knows how to get her message across. If she's that way without a wheelchair I certainly hope she wouldn't be a different person when she needed one. We are all different people and we should all live our lives in ways allowing us to express ourselves best. Let's not give wheelchairs too much power to transform who we are. If at the same time we are able to generate some buzz, raise a couple of eyebrows and get people to talk, great- sometimes you need a stunt of sorts to get the ball rolling, because the issue is much bigger than Chastity's heels that night and more controversial that the title of her song. For our last minute press release our media list included The Advocate, Out Magazine, Queerty and The Rolling Stone. It was interesting- in the perspective of everything that happened that night, including- our headliner almost not being let into the club because of the wheelchair and Chastity's really thoughtful remarks- how everything we do as part of this project suddenly gets this new depth. It was so much more than just a performance, which would have been fine if that's all it was, because we need a bit of light spirited context as well. But that is a story for another day. Visit to read more about the program. Visit to learn about the foundation and ways you can get involved and support it.

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