Local drag queens are losing gigs due to venue cancellations and novel coronavirus fears.
Local drag queens are losing gigs due to venue cancellations and novel coronavirus fears. PAULO AMORIM / GETTY
Yesterday, Seattle drag queen Betty Wetter admitted to me that it was "very weird" to see a story celebrating her work come out in our recent print issue while the same day learning about a social-distancing rule that put her and other drag performers around the city in jeopardy.

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A new mandate by both the governor and King County bans gatherings over 250 people and restricts gatherings under 250 people in order to head off the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Queer venues which host drag shows and other LGBT-centered events are already feeling the squeeze, having to cancel their programming or closing up shop for the time being. That directly impacts gig workers like drag queens who often rely on these venues to host shows for money. As a full-time drag queen, Betty described the gathering ban and subsequent cancellations as a "worst nightmare come true for queens who have been working to get to this point."

On average, Betty has three to five shows per week, from hosting Bingo at Montana Bar to hosting trivia at Solo Bar in Lower Queen Anne every Sunday. March represented an even busier month for her with five gigs every single week. Since Wednesday, she's lost five solid events—or a week's worth of work—while her shows toward the end of the month are up in the air. As performing and hosting is her entire income, every lost event profoundly impacts her financial stability.

Betty's fears are echoed by Kitty Glitter, a resident drag queen at Queer Bar. Though she doesn't do drag full time, it represents more than half of her income and so far, she's lost six gigs and hundreds of dollars in potential tips. With her main bar ceasing to host events and shows for the time being, Kitty's future is unknown and she told me she's "terrified" for what this means for both her and her community going forward.

"Queer/Bar to me is family, it’s the one place I can be unapologetically myself," she said. "My biggest fear, even bigger than how I’m going to pay rent the next three months, is the prospect of everyone I love being displaced after this."

Kremwerk has been affected too, closing its doors completely until further notice. Cucci Binaca, who was meant to host her monthly Critter Barn show on Saturday was blindsided by the notice. Though she has a part-time job, it doesn't cover all her expenses and the closure of the venue upends how she pays her bills.

Beau Degas, who is a co-host of the monthly competitive drag event Art Haus at Kremwerk, held one of the last gigs at the venue on Saturday, where she observed that a "surprising" amount of people came out. She told me that it "was a testament to how much people support artists at this time."

Since the social-distancing measures were put in place, many local queens have posted on their social media about their lost gigs and financial future. Queer Bar queens are currently circulating a list of Venmo and Cash App handles of resident performers in an effort to reach people who would like to support them in this time of need. The drag queens who host Holy Smokes, a new monthly at Chop Suey, redistributed raised funds from their last show to local trans and of color drag performers in an effort to support the most affected in their community.

For the time being, all of the queens I spoke to emphasized that the best way to support the drag community is by giving directly. Go check out your favorite (or even least favorite) drag performer on social media and drop some money in their Venmo or CashApps if you're able.

"This is not going to be easy, it's not going to be fun," said Betty. "But as long as we remain supportive and reach out for resources, we could come back better and stronger."