Story and photos by Logan Lowrey-Rasmussen, March 2019 Issue.
The Queer Agenda has been hard at work in the Phoenix Metro area not only raising money for various charities but for having doubled down on creating a space inclusive for not only alternative drag performers and entertainers but for anyone who steps through the doors of Stacy’s @ Melrose.
Echo: Tell me about the beginnings of The Queer Agenda; where and when did it start?
Carnita Asada: It was a long, misty day in the high north country — no, actually, The Queer Agenda was born because I had been producing shows sporadically for a month, and the response to have something more alternative, all-inclusive, all-loving, and a family environment was really needed in the community. I sat down with Stacy (of Stacy’s @ Melrose) for a few hours, we talked, and he confided that one of his previous partners was a different kind of drag queen; he began crying because it brought back memories, and that moment highlighted the fact there was a need here; Stacy’s would be the place, and we grew from there. Deciding on the cast was super easy since I had known Dahli (of Dragula, Season 2). I knew Benaddiction from a long time ago when we used to dance in the clubs and sing karaoke together, while she and Rubye used to host a show together; and I wanted to bring them both on since a cohesive unit is much harder to break.
Rubye Moore: The Queer Agenda happened when Carnita called me up one day and asked if I wanted to do a weekly show. I know she asked Benaddiction and me specifically because we had a show that we established — which was alternative — and branched off of that. I like doing a weekly show because I can finally showcase all my ideas. I used to perform a couple of times a month, and I get to do things I couldn’t do in other shows in the area.
Asada: We combined our superpowers, and we created this amazing family environment. Everyone has their separate shows, and we couldn’t be more blessed to have this success on Tuesday nights. I worry about it sometimes, but then I get messages, handwritten letters, and surveys from fans that say, “Keep doing what you’re doing, this has changed my whole life.” Those voices stick in my head, to be able to continue that mission and to provide that home for people who don’t necessarily feel they are wanted other places. The message here is, being different is okay.
Echo: Regarding The Queer Agenda, can you tell us some of the experiences you’ve had with charities?
Asada: I have always done charity work, and it’s in my blood. I also do committee work with the PRIDE organization and help them design specific change within that organization, but my passion projects are HIV; The Queer Agenda has done a lot with RipplePHX, and Eddie Broadway — part of the Imperial Court of Arizona — started the Broadway Gatlyn Spectrum Grant to help with transition costs, so I thought that would be a perfect way to start the year right and create an environment where we can help our own. The Imperial Court of Arizona, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Queer as Friends, RipplePHX, have all been a blessing, and we have participated in any way we can. If it’s a dollar we raised, we did our part. If it’s thousands of dollars, then we couldn’t be more excited to give to those organizations.
Echo: There are quite a few drag collectives in Phoenix that are making their mark; after one year, how do you think The Queer Agenda will make an impact on the Phoenix LGBTQ+ community?
Asada: There’s no competition when we all win; there’s always room for new shows, new ideas, and we have even invited other queer show hosts to come here from Tucson. It’s such a big community where there’s a space for everybody. As far as competition goes, the only competition is, how bigger and better can we serve the people who come here?
Echo: To all of the queens in this dressing room, what do each of you think you bring to the table in regards to this weekly show?
Benaddiction: I did a lot of gymnastics and tumbling when I was younger, so it translated to an on-stage persona. I’ve lost technical portions of dance, but the passion is still there.
Astrud Aurelia: I think I bring a unique aesthetic and eclecticism that isn’t unique to The Queer Agenda, but also Phoenix. I have a special skill-set and a unique style which separates me from other performers. I think I represent a style of drag that’s becoming more prevalent across the country and I think, in a city where I might fit in very well like Brooklyn, or San Francisco, I stand out a lot more here since I’m one of the only queens doing this kind of drag here. An intercity, progressive style of drag which queens here are either too afraid to try or haven’t been exposed to yet.
Echo: Where did the name come from?
Asada: It was around the time in 2016 when a certain individual was running for president, and I heard there was a “gay agenda,” like some stupid stuff as if we were trying to put things in the water. First of all, no: the “gay agenda” is not a thing, and with The Queer Agenda, there’s no agenda at all [except one] of inclusivity, love, and being seen as equals. If that’s The Queer Agenda, I want to expose that to those who have never been here before, and maybe they can change their mind.
Echo: When and where can we see The Queer Agenda in action?
Asada: Tuesday nights at Stacy’s @ Melrose, 9 p.m. sharp — SHARP! We have something here for everybody; there’s usually no cover except for special events when we bring performers from out of town. We have food, and both alcoholic and virgin drinks, so there’s different ways you can support the show.