Drag Yourself Out: How our Community Navigator project for older men led to a performance at Manchester Pride
LGBT Foundation’s Pride in Ageing programme and Southway Housing have supported two older drag queens to make their stage debut in front of hundreds of festival goers at Manchester Pride, as part of our Community Navigator project for men over 65.
Tony (‘Pasty De Kline’), 66, and James (‘Di Chotomy’), 81, have been taking part in Drag Yourself Out, a journey into drag for gay, bisexual and trans men who are over 50 and living in Greater Manchester with creative direction and hosting by drag star Cheddar Gorgeous (Channel 4’s Drag SOS). The story has been featured in the Manchester Evening News following their performance at Manchester Pride.
James said, “I’ve waited a long time for this event and I loved it!".
Tony said, “It was brilliant! I got involved in this project to talk about drag, to remember drag artists in the gay culture in the 70s and on television, I never thought I’d actually do drag”.
Southway Housing Trust were commissioned to lead one of our Community Navigator projects for men over 65 across Manchester, Oldham and Tameside. Once delivery began it became apparent that older men faced very specific barriers to engagement. They wanted to explore if there were any additional barriers experienced by men from the LGBT community. Southway worked in partnership with Lawrie Roberts, Pride in Ageing Manager at the LGBT Foundation, and held a series of focus group sessions, which identified obstacles encountered by older gay, bi and trans men.
One of the key findings was that older gay, bi and trans men often felt invisible. They felt disconnected from the gay village - a space they had championed when they were younger, now felt less welcoming and too focussed on dating, drinking and dancing. Moving into new home settings as they aged, including sheltered housing schemes, often resulted in suppressing their identity.
The group wanted a way of expressing how they felt to the LGBT community, policy-makers and key statutory agencies alike. They decided that the medium of Drag, provided a fun, creative and impactful way to convey a very serious message and so, Drag Yourself Out was born.
Working with the iconic Cheddar Gorgeous, two new drag stars – Di Chotomy and Patsy De Kline emerged. They used the platform provided by Manchester Pride to share their story and experience. Their message was loud and proud; older men from the LGBT community are here and want to be heard.
The next phase is to evaluate progress, produce a guide and introduce their message to a wider audience.
Cathy Ayrton, Age Friendly Neighbourhood Manager at Southway Housing said,
“Many of the men we worked with feel edged out of LGBT spaces which cater to a younger crowd, so we’ve been using drag, a well-loved and powerful art form within LGBT+ communities and beyond, to tell their story. After our second workshop the lockdowns began and we had to suspend activity, but we’ve been able to bring the project back since restrictions eased for this debut performance on the Alan Turing Stage at Manchester Pride.”
Lawrie Roberts, Pride in Ageing Manager, said,
“Early in 2020, we started Drag Yourself Out, a brand new project for older gay, bi and trans men to create their own drag characters which represent and speak to their lives and experiences. A whole range of issues affect our older gay, bi and trans male communities, from isolation and loneliness due to being less likely to have children and being ostracised by family, to the legacy of loss of loved ones due to the HIV/Aids epidemic. Many were criminalised for their sexuality before the law changed in 1967 and they are also facing the impacts of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia and lack of LGBT visibility across the social care and retirement housing sector. Drag has been a great way to explore these experiences, and bring stories to audiences who may not know about the experiences of our older generations of LGBT communities.”