In a Bushwick warehouse on Saturday evening, three drag queens danced onstage to the song This Is Me from the movie The Greatest Showman. Hundreds of other queens stared up at them and mouthed the lyrics to the tune as they swayed in unison, entranced. When the movie came out in 2017, This Is Me quickly became a pride anthem for the LGBTQ+ community because of its message of inclusivity and respect. And in that warehouse, This Is Me became the perfect backdrop for Bushwig, an annual festival for drag queens in Brooklyn, for the exact same reason.
Even as society has made major strides in the last few decades, being LGBTQ+ still often feels like being an outsider. So when we're in a space exclusively built for the queer community, we tend to call it a "safe space." That's mostly true — being surrounded by people who share one of your identities is almost always more comfortable — but not always the case. LGBTQ+ people can and do discriminate based on race, size, gender expression, and many other facets of identity. The phrase "no fats, no fems, no Asians" is a well-known problem on Grindr, a popular dating app for gay men. And RuPaul, possibly the most famous drag queen ever, has come under criticism several times for his comments about transgender people.
So while a drag festival like Bushwig sounds like an instant safe space, the event has a policy that reminds people to be respectful of all parts of everyone's identity.
"Bushwig will not tolerate racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, biphobic, femme phobic, ageist, ableist, fat phobic, classist, xenophobic, or oppressive behavior or language of any kind at our festival," reads the event's policy to attendees.
Ahead, we talk with 13 drag queens who attended Bushwig about the true meaning of safe spaces, and why it's so important to be able to express themselves without judgment.