Lexington drag queens, activists called on city leaders to join the fight against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation

by Jason Schubert

A duo of Lexington drag performers launched a petition calling on local leaders to stand up against state and national leaders who have it out for the LGBTQ+ community Monday. 

The pair, Petty Poussay and Uma Jewels, founded LEXHAVEPRIDE.com and a companion change.org petition that has received over 4,200 signatures over the week. They plan to present 15 specific requests to Lexington’s City Council, Mayor, prosecutors, school board, state and federal legislative delegation. 

Action began Thursday night at Lexington’s Government Center meeting at 6:00 pm where they spoke to the need for allies and leadership. The Council chambers were packed, with many attendees moving to overflow seating. Uma spoke first, followed by over a dozen speakers from the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. During the meeting, council members released a statement affirming the value of Lexington’s LGBTQ+ community. The statement is online here. More information about Thursday night’s meeting can be found on the event’s Facebook page

“We want to see our elected leaders stand with us! We only have a few elected leaders in Frankfort. We want our local elected leaders to join the chorus of our voices and help lift our community,” Jewels said. 

The movement represents a response to legislation in Frankfort that targets the queer community. Bills currently are advancing that would severely regulate drag performance, ban youth transgender medical care, and a Florida-style Don’t Say Gay/Trans ban. 

Senate Bill 115, the anti-drag bill, in particular, motivates the two. To them, a world without drag would be a dark one. 

“Drag represents the diaspora of the LGBTQ+ community. We are a varied, intelligent, creative, inspired, and enlightening group of entertainers- without our contributions, the world would be a little less joyful, a little less enlightened, and a little less artful,” said Uma. 

Petty and Uma each have a long history of service to the community. They both served as Empresses of the Imperial Court of Kentucky, where they raised money for Kentucky charities. Uma and Petty together have raised over $200,000. During the 2020 pandemic year, Uma fundraised remotely through her digital platforms while painting and baking cakes (and bread). Petty, too, began Cherry Pop, a Lexington drag series that models first-time performers collecting tips for their preferred charities. 

Among the demands are specific requests to improve Lexington’s government services and protections for Queer residents. They call for prosecutors to review the constitutionality of any ultimate statutes, and to prioritize the prosecution of crimes that actually have victims. 

“Kentucky’s children face challenges in this state, and none come from drag queens,” said Petty. They point to record high child abuse cases, a crumbling foster care system, and poorer health outcomes compared to the rest of the country. 

They also call for what amount to technical changes that would improve reporting of diversity data in the city’s boards and commissions, and allow LGBTQ+ business owners to be classified as minority businesses for government contracts. 

Whatever happens in Frankfort this month, the pair believe the threat has reinvigorated the LGBTQ+ community’s engagement. “Our rights are fragile,” said Petty, “and we’re being reminded of this. We’re here for the long haul to protect what we still have, and to recover what we may be losing.”