Story & photos by Chellie Bowman
Saturday, May 27, community members gathered together in downtown Memphis in response to the anti-gay purge currently happening in Chechnya. Leaders from around the world have urged Vladimir Putin to step in and put a stop to the arrest and torture of dozens of gay men and to protect minority rights. However, thus far, Putin remains largely apathetic and inactive to calls to investigate these abductions. The PutinIsADrag march, which gathered at Court Square and ended at the National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM), was organized and spearheaded by 18 year-old Brandon Zachary Lever and hosted by Bridge Builders Change: Gender & Sexuality and Blue Suede Sisters, Abbey of the Two Kings.
Brandon Lever and Priestess (President) of the Blue Suede Sisters, Sister Tomm Foolery
Once at the NCRM Brandon and the Blue Suede Sisters spoke to the crowd, introducing themselves and their mission, and urging those present to be a witness to these atrocities and to help fight against them. With glitter and bubbles, they performed exorcisms against hate. The gathering was quite inspirational–in particular for me because it was predominantly attended by and organized by community youth. While the speakers that came forward were fairly unpolished and self-conscious it was exactly this which created a feeling of authenticity and solidarity.
Crowd gathered in a field across from the NCRM in solidarity against hate in Chechnya
During an open mic section of the meeting many unscheduled persons got up to speak, sharing their personal experiences and calling on others to continue the fight. While the themes were universal ones–of love and acceptance– testimony was grounded in and made up of the everyday struggles of LGBT youth in our current political climate, from Trump-supporting parents to bullying to homophobic religious ideology.
Aubrey Ombre got up to share her individual experience of discrimination against the backdrop of the Lorraine Motel
Young woman gets up to remind everyone that we are all made of flesh, blood, and muscle and cannot overlook what’s happening to our brothers and sisters across the world
Cameron Rogers of our most recent TransFocus article speaks about his experience with bullying in high school
George Boyington of the Shelby County Young Democrats got up to speak to remind everyone to actually get involved at the policy/governmental level. (For more info on Young Democrats click here)
I talked to Sister Krisco Kringle who told me a little bit about the Blue Suede Sisters. Part of an international order of queer nuns they are a mission house who advocate for LGBT youth, homelessness, and women’s rights. Their objective is to spread joy and banish hate, shame and guilt. As far as their outlandish fashion sense, well, it comes quite in handy besides being unquestionably fabulous. For example, they often protest the protestors at Planned Parenthood, stealing attention away from the anti-choice crowd. They run completely on volunteerism, helping other organizations raise much needed funds.
Sister Krisco Kringle in all her glory
To learn more about the Blue Suede Sisters visit their website at http://bluesuedesisters.wixsite.com/bluesuedesisters/the-sisters .