'We are not going anywhere!': Protesters rally against anti-drag legislation at AZ Capitol
Demonstrators gathered to protest at the state Capitol on Sunday in support of drag and abortion rights. Some carried signs, some came in drag, and many spoke out against recently proposed anti-LGBTQ bills that would implement stricter zoning and permits for drag performances, and define them as “adult cabaret.”
Local drag performer Noelle Cañez, known onstage as Daddy Satan, organized the event in collaboration with Trans Queer Pueblo, Equality Arizona, and Radical Women Phoenix. She said the protest was a place for the community to speak out.
“I want them to know that we’re not gonna lay down and take this quietly,” Cañez said. “I want them to know that there’s a huge base here that supports choice and a huge base that supports the art of drag in Arizona.”
Cañez says she was encouraged by the large turnout, and hopes to see more Arizonans voice their support for the art of drag.
Trans rights activist Brianna Westbrook led a chant in front of the state Capitol buildings.
“We are here,” the group chanted. “We are queer! And we are not going anywhere!”
Astrud Aurelia is a local performer who competed on two seasons of the show “Dragula.”
“Drag is fun,” Aurelia said. “Drag is art. Drag is nightlife. Drag is community. Drag is love. But more than all of it, drag is f–king protest.”
Aurelia said drag changed their life, and many others, as a channel for self expression and community. They said that as a drag queen, they feel it’s their civic duty to protest.
“We don’t have a lot of queer representation in politics,” Aurelia said. “We don’t have a lot of queer representation in our legislative offices making these changes happen.”
Xyra Flores, a drag performer and coordinator for Trans Queer Pueblo, says the community is targeted by the equivalent of the anti-cross-dressing laws it faced in the past.
“The language of these bills is aimed at disappearing us,” Flores said. “But they have had 500 years to disappear us, and we are still here.”
Cheryl Klein, a retired fire medic originally from New York, said she has been fighting for LGBTQ rights since the early 1980s. She recalled being chased, beaten, and seeing her friends die for that fight over the years.
"I want to continue the fight, and it's nice to see the younger people around," Klein said. "Because I don't wanna go back to what it was."