Monday, March 20, 2023
HomeHealthRepublicans are focusing on drag exhibits. This congressman loves them.

Republicans are focusing on drag exhibits. This congressman loves them.

Up to date at 2:15 p.m. ET on March 16, 2023

Robert Garcia, a 45-year-old former Lengthy Seaside, California, mayor and newly elected Democratic U.S. consultant, is hardly the primary overtly homosexual member of Congress, however there’s one thing distinctive and irreverent in how he has approached his first few months on the job. He’s publicly celebrated drag tradition, casually criticized Republican colleagues on Twitter, and paid tribute to Beyoncé on the Home ground. Though a few of his commentary is cringeworthy—after a latest jobs report, he tweeted that “President Biden’s financial system is SLAYING”—Garcia embodies one thing new and welcome in American federal politics: an eagerness to embrace the popular culture and establishments made by and for homosexual folks.

On a Friday evening in mid-February, I met Garcia and three of his pals at Hamburger Mary’s, a drag bar and restaurant in downtown Lengthy Seaside. “Now we have a celeb in the home, y’all,” the internet hosting queen hooted. The lights fell on Garcia. “You giving all these loopy bitches hell for us, Congressman?” she requested, sidling as much as him. Garcia laughed and handed the queen—stage identify Mia Farrow—a wad of greenback payments, which she slipped between a black-velvet costume and a pair of shiny silicone breasts.

The placement was Garcia’s concept. His hair combed to a Clark Kent sheen, Garcia greeted the Hamburger Mary’s employees with kisses on the cheek. As he and his pals chatted about an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race the bar had proven on TV, they organized three neat piles of money to offer to the queens strutting by. “I’ve been to each homosexual bar in Lengthy Seaside tons of occasions,” Garcia advised me over a double Tito’s soda.

There are extra overtly homosexual, lesbian, and bisexual politicians in Congress than ever, however Garcia stands out amongst his political contemporaries, lots of whom have public pictures that appear to withstand homosexual stereotypes. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg ran for president as a married veteran. Colorado Governor Jared Polis was as soon as described in The New York Occasions as a “who-cares homosexual” with a schlubby tech-nerd vibe. Former Consultant Sean Patrick Maloney, who emerged from the macho politics of New York State, was recognized for his combative model.

All these males march in satisfaction parades and converse freely about their sexuality, however being homosexual for Garcia entails extra conspicuous enthusiasm for queer individuals who aren’t his husband. In Lengthy Seaside, he hosts fundraisers at homosexual bars and has attended drag exhibits for years. Jewels, an area drag queen whom Garcia honored with a key to town in 2019, advised me it’s been “mind-boggling” to see her good friend of twenty years and a champion of drag performers make it to Congress, particularly at a time when Republican-led state legislatures try to limit drag exhibits. (Tennessee simply handed a regulation banning “grownup cabaret” performances in public.) Garcia, Jewels stated, is prepared to face up for individuals who need “the liberty to do greater than conform.”

That change is overdue. In 1986, Barney Frank grew to become the primary member of Congress to voluntarily come out as homosexual, and for a few years he was one among simply a handful. “It was actually solely within the ’90s that homosexual points hit the nationwide political stage with Don’t Ask, Don’t Inform and the Protection of Marriage Act,” the historian George Chauncey advised me. The gay-rights motion’s emphasis on two pillars of straight respectability—the navy and marriage—elevated politicians who match an identical mould. “There was no assembly the place everybody agreed to be rather less subversive in alternate for political entry and energy,” the cultural critic Dan Savage advised me in an e-mail. However as extra facets of homosexual tradition entered the mainstream—together with drag and frank dialogue of intercourse—extra types of homosexual respectability emerged too. “As soon as we had house to be ourselves—to be a Cupboard member or Worldwide Mr. Leather-based—we … stored being ourselves,” Savage stated.

Garcia considers himself “fairly vanilla,” however vanilla in Lengthy Seaside is totally different from vanilla in Washington. Most politicians speak about drag queens and different gender-nonconforming folks with contempt, or like a caring however barely clueless mum or dad. When Garcia does, it’s from a spot of familiarity—even reverence. He known as drag “an essential artwork kind” in our dialog, and vocally defends the raunch and camp that deliver tens of millions of individuals pleasure and which means, at the same time as some Republicans attempt to legislate it out of existence. “I’m not going to, like, dial again issues that make me who I’m,” Garcia advised me.

Garcia, the first homosexual immigrant elected to Congress, was 5 years previous when he and his mom left Peru for the USA, settling in Southern California. “My mother’s first couple jobs had been cleansing homes and dealing for outlets,” he advised me. “We at all times simply labored to make it.” He realized English by studying comics, and realized in center college that, just like the superheroes he examine, he had an id he needed to maintain secret. (A comic book-book nerd to this present day, Garcia was sworn into Congress with the Structure and an unique first-issue Superman.)

Garcia got here out in faculty, and in our dialog he was remarkably candid about his first experiences as a homosexual man—from going to his first homosexual bar as a closeted fraternity pledge, to his first homosexual sexual expertise with a fraternity brother, to his first drag present at a membership in Lengthy Seaside known as Ripples, that includes an area performer named Dolly Levi. (Lengthy Seaside has a storied “gayborhood” that’s each racially and economically various. “For many of us poor queers of coloration, Lengthy Seaside was the shit,” Melissa Hidalgo, a professor of ladies’s, gender, and sexuality research at California State College at Lengthy Seaside, advised me.) By the point Garcia graduated, he had a crew of homosexual pals. One Fourth of July, they went to Manufacturing facility, a West Hollywood spot that closed in 2018, and Garcia danced all evening with the man who, in 2018, grew to become his husband, Matthew Mendez, now a political-science professor at CSULB. “I used to be so sprung,” Garcia stated.

The precarity Garcia felt as each a homosexual man and an immigrant (he grew to become a U.S. citizen in faculty) drove him to enter public service and assist individuals who didn’t have the alternatives he did. In 2009, at age 32, he gained his first race, for a seat on the Lengthy Seaside Metropolis Council. In 2014, he was elected town’s youngest, first Latino, and first homosexual mayor. Throughout his eight years within the job, he constructed up town’s downtown; opened the Lengthy Seaside conference heart to immigrant youngsters who arrived on the border unaccompanied; and labored with town’s gay-bar house owners to securely revive nightlife through the coronavirus pandemic and to vaccinate bartenders, drag queens, and go-go boys towards monkeypox.

In Congress, Garcia has begun to make use of his new platform to place himself as a foil to Republican Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and George Santos. Garcia—who earned reward as mayor for his dealing with of COVID, which killed his mom and stepfather in 2020—sits on the COVID-19 oversight subcommittee with Greene, who has unfold misinformation about COVID vaccines. At one committee assembly final month, she requested the pinnacle of the Authorities Accountability Workplace how a lot federal COVID funding had gone towards drag-queen story hours, which Greene had beforehand described as “an assault on our youngsters.” (The GAO head stated he didn’t know.) “She sits, like, proper throughout from me. It’s laborious to hearken to, however you simply present up ready,” Garcia advised me. “I feel most individuals would let you know that they’d moderately go away their child with a drag queen than with fucking Marjorie Taylor Greene.” (After I emailed Greene’s spokesperson with a request for remark, he wrote again: “I’m not responding to somebody with ‘pronouns’ of their signature.”)

Garcia additionally has made a goal of Santos, not too long ago introducing a decision, largely symbolic within the GOP-controlled Home, to expel the New York freshman from Congress, after revelations that he had fabricated a lot of his résumé. Garcia reserves specific ire for Santos’s obvious lie that a few of his former co-workers died within the 2016 Pulse nightclub taking pictures, by which 49 folks, most of them homosexual Latino males, had been killed. But Garcia additionally expressed pained empathy for Santos; each are homosexual males from South American immigrant households. “Have you ever seen the movies of him as Kitara?” Garcia requested me, referring to a stage identify Santos reportedly used in a drag efficiency in Brazil. “He appears to be like so comfortable. My coronary heart breaks a bit of.” (Santos denies having been a drag queen. “I used to be younger, and I had enjoyable at a competition,” he advised reporters. His workplace didn’t return a request for remark for this text.)

Garcia, after all, is simply getting began in his new job, and to remain in workplace, he’ll should ship for his constituents. That his arrival in Washington nonetheless appears exceptional is a reminder of many People’ slender expectations for queer folks in public life. However Garcia appears intent on exhibiting how a severe public servant can have fun queer tradition at its most playful, and increase what it appears to be like wish to be homosexual and characterize America.

As we had been leaving Hamburger Mary’s, he regarded again on the stage. “Oh my God,” he stated, grabbing a handful of greenback payments earlier than working again to the place we had been sitting. Dolly Levi, the primary queen Garcia noticed carry out, as a university child, had taken the stage and was lip-synching to an up-tempo observe from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. As Levi spun round, the beat dropped and the black shroud she was carrying fell away to disclose a flowing pink-and-lavender costume. Garcia appeared transfixed. The smoke billowed and the lights flashed, and I considered RuPaul’s line that drag “doesn’t cover you. It reveals who you might be.

This text beforehand misidentified the bar the place Garcia noticed his first drag present.



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