As I look back, this has to be one of my prouder moments. Joining ACT-UP & Queer Nation in protesting the hypocrisy of Metropolitan Opera’s admirable choice of celebrating a gay Russian composer (Stravinsky) at the Opening Gala for their season—and the counterintuitive decision to showcase two Russian celebrities, (the conductor & principle soloist) who publicly support the notoriously anti-gay Putin regime.
The current climate in Russia is simply murderous for Queers. Atrocities are now righteously institutionalized and enacted daily. The fact that Russia is (following China’s lead) seeking global validation while hiding legacies of human rights’ atrocities behind [hosting] the Olympics and their own cultural elitism… is Shameful! To my mind, the MET actively endorses this endeavor with their obligatory silence.
So when Jackie Rudin told me about this protest, I knew I had to get there. Despite the fact I was flat broke, (vet bills, medical bills, and a myriad of other ‘unplanned fiscal disruptions’), and I didn’t have time to do the trademark ‘full Sister face’—I scraped some change, grabbed my “itty-bitty polkadot bikini” and hopped on the subway.
Once I got to Columbus Circle, I ducked into a public courtyard to transform. I had just finished adding glitter to the ‘blood’ leaking out of my eyes when the security guard asked me to leave. I apologized to and for him (for his shitty job), and bid him ‘happy trails’.
Upon arrival at the protest gathering, I was met with the usual number of raised eyebrows from my activist colleagues. Bieng ‘big enough’ to entice a spotlight for a cause or movement, without overshadowing it, is a slippery slope open to subjective interpretation.
Personally, I find I reach more people one on one, with a little bit of ‘honey,’ and a little bit of shiny. Additionally, beyond simply being scandalous, we’re simultaneously (and somewhat subversly) serving as a catalyst for [visibility and] dialog by embodying an image that’s ‘unapologetically gay’ and/or ‘gender-fuck’ fierce (with “a spoonful of sugar”).
Theatrical farce and shared laughter are effective teaching tools. Bertolt Brecht wrote, “Let this learning be pleasurable. Learning should be taught as an art… and the practice of art is pleasurable.“
As a 7ft psychedelic drag nun in a bikini, I needn’t yell to get your attention—and once I have you engaged (often with a wink and a smile), it is in Solidarity and Loving Kindness I hold you, safe.
Standing in front of the Metropolitan Opera with my fellow activists, reaching out and engaging those present: challenging the hateful Putin regime; challenging the hateful strangle-hold of the Eastern Orthodox Church; (and, perhaps most importantly) sharing a knowing nod and wink of solidarity to our queer counterparts in Russia. A visual love letter to those struggling and suffering: an image; perhaps even an opportunity to smile.
If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” I hope those are a few. That would be worth a lot in-deed; that would make me proud.
sister lotti da