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Drag queens dethroned

ENDURING SUBCULTURE. The Ottawa Knights celebrate their 30th anniversary this year. Credit: Peter Knippel

The Ottawa Knights are going against tradition and dropping drag queens from the Mr Leather Ottawa line-up, a move that prompted Douglas Connors, a former titleholder, to angrily resign as production manager in early September.

While the “no drag queens” rule has been in effect since 2001, the Knights have made exceptions for the intermission act until this year.

Connors resigned just after Labour Day weekend, citing his reasons in a detailed letter that he shot off to the Knights. Connors had been charged with penning the script for the intermission show, but organizers kept removing the drag queen from the act. He got fed up and resigned.

“Being a leather man, when you have a conviction, you stand up for it,” Connors says. “And I did. I didn’t agree with the way things were going.”

He points to the longstanding collaborations between the drag and leather community, in which the Knights judge drag events such as Miss Continental and Miss Pride, and to the efforts of drag queens at Stonewall.

“If it weren’t for them [drag queens], you wouldn’t have the rights that you enjoy today,” Connors says. “So shut your mouth and give respect where it’s deserved. We have a lot more in common than people like to admit.”

Shawn Carroll, current Mr Leather titleholder, also resigned from the Knights on Sep 7 but says that his departure was unrelated to the drag queen issue and there is no lingering animosity.

“It just wasn’t for me anymore,” Carroll says. “I wanted to go on and do different things.”

At last year’s Mr. Leather Ottawa (MLO), Bella Straight did a Martha Stewart-esque impression which, Carroll recalls, “turned into 10 minutes of swearing and lost thoughts and was just torture for the audience. So we’ve decided to try something completely different this year and stay totally away from it.”

Jean-Francois Pinsonnault, president of the Knights, agrees that audience complaints were a major factor.

“Whenever we have either verbal or written comments of disappointment,” Pinsonnault says, “at least 60 or 70 percent are linked to the fact that people do not appreciate the abuse that they got from certain performers.”

Pinsonnault also cites technical reasons for dropping the drag queens.

“We decided that in the production itself we would no longer be using female impersonators or drag [queens], because they consumed a lot of time,’ Pinsonnault says. “We pride ourselves on being a two-hour competition, give or take 15 minutes.”

At the 2001 competition, 2001: A Leather Odyssey, a knight nicknamed Squeaky was making a speech to an alcohol-infused audience. Some attendees got impatient with his speech impediment and became vocal. Dixie Landers, the co-emcee, gave several warnings before finally telling everyone to “Shut the fuck up!”

Connors, like other sources, agrees that the audience was out of hand but that Landers’ profanity was inappropriate. However, when organizers adopted a “no drag queen” rule after the incident, he disagreed with them at the time.

The Knights have not ruled out booking drag queens in the intermission act for next year’s MLO, but for this year’s Triple X theme, they did not fit the bill.