When we’re out at a nightclub, many of us might think of drag queens purely as entertainment. We view these elaborately costumed wisecrackers as great fun, but many of us don’t really take them seriously.
But this fun and frolic aspect is only a small part of the story for many queens, say Boom Boom Lubalicious, the Empress of the Imperial Sovereign Court of Atlantic Nova Society. Members of the Halifax chapter of the Imperial Court raise funds for charity, continuing a long tradition of drag queens doing good work.
Xtra.ca sat down with Ed Savage, whose alter ego is Boom Boom, to talk about his involvement with the Imperial Court. “It’s a misconception that drag queens are always in your face, confrontational and that is how things get done,” says Savage.
Still, persistence and determination make the difference. During his reign as Empress VIII, Savage was the driving force behind getting the route for the Pride parade changed to go directly through the downtown area of Halifax and was instrumental in having the first Pride float take part in the city’s Parade of Lights in November. In addition, he has been a major force in an outreach program which sees drag performers travel to university campuses and other venues throughout the province.
This, Savage tells, is most rewarding part. “When you see a smile of recognition and you realize that you have given someone the idea that it is okay to be who they are. Knowing I’ve made a difference.”
While his activism and work on behalf of the queer community started early, his career as a drag performer began almost by accident. “I was living in Cape Breton working on Pride activities there and some drag queens were coming from Halifax and we needed a hostess. I had never done drag before but friends talked me into trying.”
Some time later he attended a meeting of the board of the Imperial Court and decided to join. “The drag community really put themselves out there,” says Savage, “and we raise a lot for charity.” Battered women’s shelters, breast cancer, juvenile diabetes and the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia are just a few of the beneficiaries of the Imperial Court’s fundraising efforts which include car washes, performances, auctions, dinners and mock jails. The annual Coronation Ball in February is a major fundraiser.
The Imperial Court system began in San Francisco in 1965 and now has 90 chapters across North America. “Collectively, millions are raised every year,” says Savage with pride.
As Boom Boom’s reign draws to a close, Savage looks back on the past year. It saddens him to have to continue to battle prejudice. “The queer community talks a lot about discrimination but many still see drag queens as monsters. They’ll enjoy a drag show but don’t really accept us as members of the community.”