LGBTQ Activists Protest Sharon Needles, Accuse Performer of Racism and Transphobia

By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

A debate is brewing over Drag Race winner Sharon Needles‘ use of a racial slur in her act as well as in an autograph for a fan. She is also being called transphobic.

Aaron Coady (the man under the makeup) met with LGBTQ activists in Atlanta Tuesday before performing there. The Georgia Voice reports:

A tearful Coady said he felt berated by the activists who questioned his use of the racial slur. He defended Sharon Needles as a “transgressive” character meant to push buttons and shine a spotlight on all that is dark in society.

“If people educated themselves on the type of work and didn’t just judge it by my costume choices and simple screen shots and really investigated why I use the imagery I use, I’m really more on their side than they think,” Coady said, tears rolling down his face.

Enakai Ciseaux and Maura Ciseaux, who met with Coady and are organizers of the protest, said they were disappointed Needles would not publicly apologize for using the racial slur and still planned to protest tonight’s show.

“We are disappointed that, after acknowledging that her words are hurting queer people of color and stating that she does not want to create or further a divide in the LGBT community, Sharon is refusing to issue a public apology or commit to not using racist imagery and epithets in her shows. Saying, ‘I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings,’ to one person is not enough when she knows she’s hurt hundreds,” Enakai Ciseaux said after the meeting.

In an interview with New Now Next Thursday, Needles explained that she has decided to no longer use the word:

Sharon says this all began over photos a group in Pittsburgh uncovered of Sharon dressed as Hitler and using swastikas with Mickey Mouse ears in her act. These activists created a sensationalist website attacking her and those she performed with. Following this, some local Atlanta residents took issue with Sharon’s use of the word n****r (“I thought I was using the N word in the ways of John Lennon, Patti Smith, and Marilyn Manson, but apparently this PC World is going backwards. But success comes with compromise, so I choose to no longer use it,” she explains.), and decided to hold a protest this week when she performed in the city.  Not that it really bothered Sharon much. “Do a protest. You know me, I love attention.”

A national protest is in the works.  What do you think? Are some words/images always off limits? Should we hold artists to different standards?