In recent year, Drag Queens have found their place in the LGBT community by attending Pride Festivals, hosting events at colleges and universities across the country, and even sparking a reality TV show competition created by Ru Paul, the Queen of Drag (a moniker that has both been given to him and he has given himself).
Terence Smith began doing drag in 1974, using the drag name Joan Jett Blakk. Terence was a performer but also an activist in the LGBTQ+ community, advocating for LGBTQ+ rights during the HIV/AIDS outbreak. In 1991, Blakk had enough of politicians not doing enough for AIDS victims and ran for mayor of Chicago. Unfortunately, Blakk lost the mayoral election to Richard M. Daley but the mayoral campaign was enough to spark an interest and following to launch a campaign for President of the United States.
In 1992, Blakk did just that: she launched a campaign in July 1992 for President of the United States. Her campaign slogan was “Lick Bush in ‘92”. She referred to her campaign as a “camp-pain” citing she was “putting in the camp, taking out the pain.” The campaign found enough momentum to gain a headline in the Chicago magazine New City.
She had no intention of winning the election and knew it was not a real possibility but she was using the campaign and party as a way to draw attention to AIDS activism and LGBTQ+ rights. She ran her campaign as part of the Queer Nation Party.
Blakk attended the Democratic National Convention in drag after initially being told she was not able to do so. This was a moment for history as no drag queen had been invited to attend the DNC, nor been able to attend in drag. She refused to take no for an answer and became the first presidential candidate to announce their candidacy on the floor of the DNC. She eventually went on to win the Iowa primary but did not progress much further in the primary elections.
Later in her career, she moved to San Francisco and ran for mayor, losing the race but again bringing attention to LGBTQ+ rights.
Blakk spent most of her career as an activist drag queen finding ways to bring attention to social issues such as a woman’s right to choose, LGBTQ+ issues, HIV/AIDS activism, and universal healthcare.
Written by: Zach Hover