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Drag queens protest at border wall to raise money for LGBTQ asylum-seekers

NBC News logo NBC News 2/26/2019 Reynaldo Leanos, Jr.

a group of people posing for a photo: Image: Drag queens from across the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas gathered in Brownsville, Texas, to perform and raise money for LGBTQ asylum seekers.

Image: Drag queens from across the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas gathered in Brownsville, Texas, to perform and raise money for LGBTQ asylum seekers.
© Reynaldo Leanos Jr.

Beatrix Lestrange stood in front of a crowd wearing a multicolored dress, red wig, black pumps and a choker with studs.

"Who's ready to have a political time?" Lestrange asked the audience, which was standing in a semicircle cheering and applauding.

"We'll try to bring joy, positivity, beauty, drag, culture to whatever this is," Lestrange added, pointing to the border wall directly behind her.

Drag queens from across the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, which sits on the U.S.-Mexico border, gathered Saturday in front of an existing border structure in Brownsville to host a No Border Wall Drag Protest. They said there goal was to show people there is no border crisis and voice opposition to more barrier construction in the region. All the money raised by the protest will go to LGBTQ asylum-seekers.

Earlier this month, Congress passed a spending bill that will allocate $1.375 billion for the construction of border infrastructure in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. And in November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers, awarded two contracts for the construction of a border wall in south Texas. Both projects are slated to be built in Hidalgo County and construction is expected to begin this month.

Lestrange organized the protest performance and is a self proclaimed "dragtavist," a drag queen who uses her platform for social activism.

"The vision was to perform in front of this wall and project our beauty and our glamour and our empowerment against this symbol that stands for hate, racism and xenophobia," Lestrange said. "All of these things that aren't really happening in our community."

Michelangelo De Vinci, whose real name is Sabino Ponce Jr., said he wanted to participate in the protest show because for him, it's personal. His dad was once undocumented.

"I know his struggle coming over and how he built himself from the ground up with his third grade education," Ponce said. "There are other people who are trying to come over here and do something better for themselves and their families. My dad being one of them, and these other people as well, so they should get a chance to live here also."

Each queen lip synced and performed to a different song in their flashy outfits, songs that ranged from Green Day's "American Idiot" to Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."

"We need to continue that movement and let people never forget that there has never been a more perfect opportunity to be Valley proud," Trujillo said.

Another performer at the protest show was Arina Heys, whose real name is David Bocanegra. Heys wanted to participate in the protest show to showcase the beauty of the Latin culture in the region.

"We get painted as this one negative picture," Heys said. "We are just like any other community, and it's extremely family oriented, it's lovable, humble and welcoming."

Lestrange said she also hopes the drag performances bring awareness to some of the issues lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer migrants face.

"I get teary eyed and emotional every time, because they're already fleeing really horrible conditions," Lestrange said of LGBTQ migrants. "They're fleeing homophobia, transphobia, violence, trauma, only to come to the doorsteps of our country and encounter more of that."

Lestrange said all of the money raised by the drag protest will go to LGBTQ asylum-seekers, but she wants to challenge other LGBTQ communities across the country to participate in their own form of activism.

"If we can do this in front of the border wall, then they can do something similar," Lestrange said. "Do it now, because tomorrow is too late."



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