Celebrate! Bridges to Independence Event Next Monday

What: CELEBRATE! A drag show featuring performers with developmental disabilities and allies
Date: Monday, January 11th, 2010.
Time: Door opens at 6:30pm, show 7:30-9:30pm
Where: Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 N. Interstate Ave. (at Killingsworth)
See below for more info, or contact Bridges to Independence.

More information on their website.

From Willamette Week:

I’ll fess up. My 2010 resolution to keep an open mind was already tested when I read a recent email from Bridges to Independence, a local nonprofit that helps adults with developmental disablities learn life skills, from money management to job training and sex ed. “We’re holding a fundraiser featuring drag performances by artists with developmental disabilities and [their] allies,” wrote Bridges board president Emi Koyama. “The show will also launch the agency’s LGBTQ+DD Program to serve specific needs of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.” I’m all for supporting both the rights of gay and differently abled locals, but dressing up disabled people in wigs and heels and having them lip sync to Gloria Gaynor seems like the worst idea ever—or at least like a creepy, exploitative episode of Glee that never made it past the network brass. Not so, according to Koyama. She says a number of the 80-plus high-functioning people with developmental disablities (“DD” for short) at Bridges self-identify as gay—and there’s many more who need help and support revealing their sexuality to their families. Koyama, who is queer, hopes a big, bold coming-out party like this will be just the ticket to connect Portland’s DD community with gay allies—and have a little dragilicious fun in the process.

WW: Why is it hard for LGBTQ-DD people to come out?

Emi Koyama: People with DD in general are supposed to be non-sexual. [As recently as the past century] they were even sterilized and could not reproduce. There’s still this idea [in the DD community that] “My son or daughter [with DD] should never have anything to do with sex.” On top of that, obviously the [gay] taboo becomes more significant if your parents are conservative. Because many people with DD rely on parents for housing [and financial] support.

But a drag show? That seems too sexual.

It’s a way to get everybody involved and make a stand. In Portland, a drag show is not a big deal, but within this community it’s a really big deal…I want people to have pride. I am worried about how families of people with DD [in general] will react to this idea (although not those who already work with Bridges). Some people feel this is not appropriate for this community because they [think] individuals with DD are like children. But they are not children. They are adults. And most adults have some kind of sexual desire and identities and experiences. That’s often denied to people with disabilities. Even being seen as performers with a need to express themselves [is a] big deal…. [Next year] we’re applying for a grant to be in the Portland Pride Parade.

Do you have any idea what your clients will be performing to?
I think one performer [with DD] is doing “Barbie Girl.” And one of the drag kings said she wanted to do a country song. It’s still…developing.

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