Fall is here and that means it is time for the return of OUTrageous Bingo, which kicks off the season on September 7 at Rodef Shalom. OUTrageous Bingo has been entertaining legions of Pittsburghers for over 20 years, benefitting the Pittsburgh Equality Center and Shepherd Wellness Community.
OUTrageous Bingo sells out almost monthly which is great for the orgs, but tough for those who don’t get tickets quickly.
Fortunately, there are other options – smaller drag queen bingos organized by local performers as fundraisers for everything from firehalls to animal rescue groups. Note that Outrageous Bingo is not a drag bingo, per se. But the performances during the intermission are very popular and have been a beloved part of the experience for decades.
VyVyan Vyxn organizes bingos, often in the Western suburbs and outer communities including Aliquippa. Her group organized a bingo with CARMAA, a portion of which was donated to the #CatFoodDrivePgh that I organize. Check out her Facebook page for other upcoming drag bingos.
The Sparking Queens of Drag are five queer artists and technicians who travel around the metro area providing bingo fundraisers. They have events in West View, Natrona Heights, and through the Mon Valley as well. The Sparking Queens of Drag are led by Jezebel who has longstanding ties to OUTrageous Bingo.
If drag bingo is not your cup of tea, consider the twice a month Drag Brunch hosted by Kierra Darshell at the Pittsburgh IMPROV. There’s also the Ladies Who Drag Brunch hosted by 5801 and Mama Mosa at Olive or Twist in the Cultural District.
The Washington County Gay Straight Alliance has organized both a drag brunch and bingo event in October.
Are you kids interested in drag performance? Consider the 5th Annual Twinkle kids drag variety show hosted this year at the Andy Warhol Museum on November 17 and E! The Dragnificent.
October will bring Werq the World to the Cultural District; we have a great Q&A with Pennsylvania native, Aquaria, who weighs in on some of these issues.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s scheduled and who is performing – go to Facebook and search for yourself! Leave a comment if there’s something else people should know about.
I’m gravely concerned about the negative attention focusing on drag artists. You remember the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh cancelled a drag story hour in June as did the Children’s Museum – both of those decisions were terrible precedents that may have pacified the organizations conservative base, but put a lot of queer people in harm’s way.
Some local bingos has been targeted by pastors. The hatefulness of this scenario is also causing a lot of harm in the local LGBTQ community and it is heartbreaking. We shouldn’t be afraid to schedule drag events because someone in our own community will try to derail them. We should be scheduling even more events.
We have plenty of events and opportunities at each event to build relationships, break down perceived barriers, and do good for all of us. I’ve written nearly a dozen posts about the VFD in Worthington-West Franklin that leased their property for a billboard that now promotes vile, racist messages on a regular basis. I bet that’s one fire department that regrets not using drag queen bingo to raise funds. And I now think THEY SHOULD ORGANIZE ONE. Literally everyone who lives in Worthington and/or drives past on the state highway would be better off with a drag fundraising event than this billboard. And working with some of the drag artists who are Black or Brown people of color would get at some painful, but necessary truths about the larger situation.
Drag artists are often on the frontlines of these relationships, challenging us and our neighbors and cis het folks to rethink our stereotypes about all people. Whether it is a bingo or brunch, it is more than a simple moment of entertainment. It is a transactional and emotional interlude that can humanize everyone.
And it can be a flag to other people – when I see that a Fire Department near me is hosting a drag event, I’m reminded of the feeling of seeing an HRC sticker on a car especially years ago. It was a nod to kinship and acceptance that most of us craved if for no other reason than there being safety in numbers. Where there is a drag bingo or two, perhaps there might soon be a PFLAG meeting or a youth program or even school district policies. We should honor this advance guard work and those whose bingos are far more risky and volatile than one would normally expect.
If are you nodding your head, consider organizing a drag bingo event or a brunch or a storyhour. By providing income for the drag artists and their teams, you are doing a good thing. By bringing the messages of drag to your community, you are doing more good things.
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