Humanities Washington will stream a panel discussion Tuesday led by Aberdeen drag king and LGBT+ activist Ceasar Hart.
The nonprofit, which promotes arts and cultural efforts statewide, is offering a series of online events with scholars and experts to get a wide view of 2020. Hart’s contribution, to be streamed from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday via Zoom, is titled “Drag Culture and Parenting Transgender Youth in Small Town PNW.”
(Ceasar Hart is the drag king persona for Kristi, who identifies as nonbinary — not exclusively male or female. They often appear publicly as Hart to advocate for the LGBT+ community, and will be handling this event as Hart.)
As a drag show organizer, Hart has become intimately familiar with both the joy and the pain of the trans community.
“Drag is a steppingstone for people — not all, but some — to find their truth,” he said. “And once they find it, they take it all the way to transitioning into their authentic selves. It’s like watching a flower blossom!”
And yet, he added, “You have no idea how much pain they go through. And they choose to go through that because they have to be authentic. What they see in the mirror and what they see on the inside have to match.”
Hart had worked previously on a project for the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions, with help from Elaine Vradenburgh of The Evergreen State College. They put together a presentation about the drag culture on Grays Harbor, which was completed and released shortly before the pandemic hit Washington.
In March or April, he said, a panel that included Hart, Vradenburgh and Langston Wilkins of Humanities Washington discussed ways they could continue sharing community stories with the public during the lockdown. Several topics came up that could be presented online.
“The story I wanted to bring to light is parenting transgender youth in a rural or small-town community,” said Hart. “I already know transgender kids in Aberdeen and Hoquiam have nightmarish stories to share.”
He cited, for example, a time last school year when members of Aberdeen High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance were bullied at school and felt they were doubly victimized by lack of support from school staff and administrators. On a more positive note, he mentioned Hoquiam High School’s decision to make all of its graduation gowns the same color going forward, rather than having two colors represent two genders.
“I see things like this happening where we live, so I wanted to make sure something in our LGBTQ community is being talked about, and even explained,” he said. “I feel like people need to be educated that whatever mentality they may have with these individuals might very well be wrong.”
The Humanities Washington event will be conducted as a panel discussion with parents of transgender youth from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Northern California. Four Grays Harbor parents are among them. Hart and Vradenburgh will team up as moderators, with each asking questions about their experiences and concerns.
“My angle is trying to figure out the things that parents wouldn’t necessarily know to think about or talk about,” said Hart. “You have to be aware.”
Particularly during this year of increased suicide rates and violence against the transgender community, he hopes that sharing their journey with others will save lives.
“Acceptance and education are the huge things we have to focus on. There’s a lot of stigma and misinformation linked to transgender people,” he said. “If we don’t acknowledge and accept and understand, then they will end themselves. We have to make them fit.”
As of Thursday, he said, 83 people had registered for the free presentation.
“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go,” said Hart. “And the only way to do it is to educate people — planting the seed and watching it grow.”
For a short video portrait of Hart, visit vimeo.com/472816315.