Equality Florida Project Shows ‘Drag is Not a Crime’

Participants in the "Drag is Not a Crime" project. Photos by Dylan Todd.

(WM) Equality Florida mobilized supporters for a “Drag is Not a Crime” project last month at The Werk Gallery — a makeover, photoshoot and show of solidarity as attacks on the art form mount across the state.

The project “came to fruition as more and more allies to the drag community asked how best to show their support for an art form they love,” Equality Florida says. The June 21 event in St. Petersburg was the organization’s second, following an initial event held at Stonewall Pride on June 16.

“Drag has been demonized, censored and used as right-wing hysteria bait,” Press Secretary Brandon Wolf explains. “In response, a community of allies wanted the chance to put on a full face and show their networks and friends that drag is not a crime [and that] it’s not inherently inappropriate. It’s art.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed four anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law May 17, which the group deemed Florida’s “slate of hate.”  The measures included House Bill 1423, which has been utilized to target live performances like drag and was blocked by a federal judge on June 23.

Nearly 60 people participated in Equality Florida’s “Drag is Not a Crime” event just two days prior. It was made possible by a makeover team consisting of Daphne Ferraro, Cleo Patra, Lilith BlackRobert RigsbyJaeda Fuentes, Karma S. Rose and Alix Faulhaber, as well as wig supervisor Susan Haldeman and lead stylist Austin Judd.

Dylan Todd, Mike Becker, Loc Robertson and Todd Richardson served as the photographer/videographer team. Volunteers included Rebecca Garrett, Lisa Hunt, Andrea Hildebran Smith, Lee Rogers, Bee Rogers, Karaly Club, Alwin Newton, Delyliah Millstien, Charles Alderman, Mallory Hoerner, Cassie Moll, Mathew Barnes, Jesse Kiesnowski and Christine Hannah.

They were all welcomed by longtime LGBTQ+ ally Sonya Faulhaber, who hosted with The Werk Gallery.

The space is St. Petersburg’s contemporary art gallery with an attached boutique and design source. The arts hotspot is owned by her brother and brother-in-law.

“St. Pete has a spicy community with big personalities and is brimming with awesome artists,” she says. “If an art form is under attack, I want to represent and push back …  Drag is being attacked because it’s seen as a gay art. I believe in gay rights and art with all my being and will help push back in whatever way I can.”

She also notes that the gallery gladly paid the event’s drag, wig and photo artists for their efforts, which included a makeover of her own. “I was last since I worked the event,” she says.

“I loved watching what everyone came up with. It was so cool and creative … the artistry was incredible,” Faulhaber continues. “It’s hard to figure out how to try and make a difference without getting hostile or bogged down, and this was just the most fun.”

Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith also participated. She says that “attacks on drag, like the dehumanization of transgender people, are about enforcing rigid stereotypes and policing how all of us express our identities.

“Drag is not a crime. Drag is art. Drag is protest. Drag is community,” she continues. “Thank you to all who participated in this act of joyful resistance against DeSantis’ agenda of censorship and discrimination. This moment calls for all to be on the frontlines in the fight for freedom.”

Additional “Drag is Not a Crime” photoshoots aren’t currently planned, but Equality Florida says parties interested in hosting another can reach out to the organization.

“Try as they might, DeSantis and his right-wing sycophants cannot ban us,” Wolf also adds. “They cannot ban our joy. Our Pride. Our art. Our families. Our existence. LGBTQ people are a part of the fabric of our communities and this moment calls for our resistance to this war on freedom.”


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