Sense of Community within Drag
The Champaign-Urbana Drag community has a long history of banding together... creating a community for those that often felt lost and unwelcome within the LGBTQ+ and Queer community. In Champaign-Urbana, a small number of bars and restaurants have served as havens for the drag community. However, with the closing of Chester Street, a popular bar for Queer folk and performers, it became apparent to many in the local drag and queer community that spaces that allow for networking and socializing are vital for the overall communities' well-being. The bar served as a place for LGBT members in the local Champaign-Urbana area for 30 years before permanently closing in 2017. After almost 4 years, the impact of C-street closing, and its legacy can still be felt in the stories and oral histories told by local LGBT members and queens. After C-Streets closing, local bar NOLAs and the Mexican restaurant, Fiesta Cafe, have been known to support local drag performers.
In the LGBTQ+ community exists a smaller drag community.
Despite the challenges drag performers face in heteronormative society and at times, even within the LGBT community, they frequently find ways to support each other. Whether it is financial, emotional or social support queens' band together to aid each other. Types of support many queens would struggle to find elsewhere. The drag community maintains a particularly long and valiant history of protecting and nurturing their own. Often, established queens and kings will “adopt” a rising drag queen into their lineage, otherwise known as a family. The surrounding areas contain 3 prominent drag families: the Carringtons, the ShareALikes, and the Manns. Everyone feels a part of the community, despite each drag queens different styles of performance that are unique and anything but the ordinary. Likewise, the drag community continuously bands together in support of each other, one example being Gigi Mayonae’s memorial. Queens frequently attempt to create an environment that fosters safety and growth.
With the closure of C-Street and other gay bars, queens frequently must compete against each other within heteronormative spaces in order to perform. Despite the various factors that lead to divisions in the drag community, the various challenges queens and LGBT+ folks face from heteronormative society results in a tight knit community and family. Collaboration with allies creates more room for inclusion. However, “gay friendly spaces” does not mean that every patroon is accepting, or the management will take the performers and gay patroons seriously in face of threats concerning their safety. Sadly, with some venues the straight owners crave the financial opportunities that drag offers without considering the heavy implications with creating a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community.