It was starting to drizzle as Zon Legacy Phoenix dropped into a full split in Downtown Crossing on Friday afternoon. A modest but growing audience, persuaded by the music — and perhaps the 30-foot-tall arch of rainbow balloons — to brave the rain, gathered to watch the lineup of drag queens.
There was glitter face painting and free Pride flags, too, but the drag show was the main attraction at the second annual DTX Pride by Drag Tease event. Organized by Men of Melanin Magic and sponsored by the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, it was one of the first in a series of free events offered for Pride Month in Boston — the Pride Parade kicks off tomorrow at 11 a.m. in Copley Square.
Even as the rain intensified, the queens continued dancing under the overhang in front of Macy’s to loud cheers from the audience. The performers were from Drag Tease, a group that puts on a weekly drag brunch hosted at Game On! sports bar at Fenway Park, the largest such brunch in the city.
“I think it’s amazing to bring a different demographic to the public eye,” said Thiago Pego, the director of production for Men of Melanin Magic who helped organize the show.
About 90 percent of the Drag Tease cast are transgender women of color, Pego said. It’s an attempt to disrupt what he describes as Boston’s relatively homogenous drag scene — “white men in wigs,” he quipped.
The event’s goal was to open a creative, safe space for performers — especially “baby queens” — to create their art, he said.
“I want [the performers] to feel as celebrated as possible,” he said. “We are their safe space.”
Still, in the context of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation passing around the country, Pego emphasized that safety was a priority when planning the event. Since the beginning of this year, organizers have doubled the security presence at Drag Tease events in response to a rise in physical threats, he said. But he remained determined to stick to the organization’s mission of “making queer joy accessible.”
Phoenix, 27, a full-time drag queen, explained that this year’s Pride Month holds special significance to her in the context of anti-LGBTQ+ laws that have been moving through state legislatures across the country.
“I think this Pride is most important because it’s not only about pride and being happy and celebrating what we have, but it’s also about protecting our rights,” Phoenix said.
The mood was joyful on Summer Street as audience members danced and waved Pride flags in the air. Quan Dixon, 22, from Mattapan, was excited to see their first in-person drag show. “Seeing them has inspired me – I need to get my wardrobe up a little more! But, like, oh my God, it’s fun!”
Michelle Eggers, a Boston resident in her 50s, said she stumbled across the event by accident. “We heard the music and I’m like, ‘I think that’s a Pride event! Let’s go check it out.’” She said she is planning on attending more Pride events later this month.
Michael Nichols, the president of Downtown Boston Business Improvement Corporation, said the rain was “a little bit of a curveball,” but he was happy to see people enjoying themselves at the event. He said he hoped attendees would come away from the event with the impression that ”Downtown Boston is a welcoming place and that truly no matter who you are, where you come from, you’ve got a home in Downtown Crossing.”