British stone. St. Petersburg, Fla. — One of the largest pride parades in the country will be held this weekend in St. Petersburg, often a time of celebration and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community.
But this year’s new laws have taken a toll on the gay community, which many say is designed to further isolate and marginalize them.
Drag queens are one of the central groups in it all. For some, these two words conjure emotions of joy and good times, while for others, it conjures feelings of disgust or even hatred. But these performers are just like the rest of us.
“I think for most people, you could say that work is boring. It’s not boring. I absolutely love it,” Keith Reeves said.
ABC Action News anchor Jamison Uhler sat down with Reeves, who speaks with clients about insurance every day in his role as a client representative.
He joked that his work might not look glamorous, but it was important, especially in the weeks following Hurricane Ian. But not so long ago, Reeves said he was in the midst of a storm in his life.
“Definitely don’t let the headphones fool you! Because I have a lot of hats,” says Reeves. “I have a degree in Fashion Design and I want to be able to express myself and show my designs.”
Reeves combines his love of fashion and entertainment by becoming a drag performer on weekends. He said that when he needed it most, what he felt immediately from the performance was love and encouragement, and even said it saved his life.
“I didn’t have a lot of support growing up, so it really makes you feel good to have this place. It makes you feel seen. It makes you feel loved,” Reeves explained.
So, on weekends, Keith Reeves turns into Keirra Ka’oir Summers, and then back to Keith Reeves on weekdays. He says his approach is no different than a Broadway performer who goes on stage in full costume and reverts to his true selves hours later.
In this past legislative session, Florida lawmakers passed several laws affecting the LGBTQIA community, including one specifically targeting drag performers.
Asked how frustrated you get when something makes you feel a certain way but makes someone else feel the opposite, Reeves said, “Because they’re afraid. They’re afraid of change. They’re afraid of different things. They Fear of something that is not normal for them.”
Reeves said he and his friends were concerned that the new law was just the first experiment to see how far voters would allow lawmakers to isolate and exclude the gay community.
“Honestly, it’s nothing more than an attack on the trans community. If you start with drag queens, it immediately starts targeting the trans community. I think it’s mostly these people that are being attacked now. Drag queens are gay core culture. So, if you start attacking them, you might want to start there,” Reeves explained.
He noted that being black and being gay makes these days more difficult. The recent demonization of drag queens has also led to safety concerns, he told me.
“People have come and attacked us a number of times. I’ve had people throw bottles at people. People come to protest. It’s just a show! We’re really here to have a good time,” Reeves explained.
There’s more to see in HIM, Reeves said. But for that to happen, he said, people must put aside misconceptions and talk to people they might otherwise avoid.
In the end, he said that hate has never made anyone less gay or hide their identity.
“You just have to keep working hard. Keep learning. Keep growing and just say I’m here and I’m not going anywhere,” Reeves said.