CONTENT WARNING: This story contains mentions of self-harm and suicide.

After a successful drag show fundraiser, there’s a new nonprofit in Alaska.

The Queen's Guard, an LGBT support group based in Anchorage, attends drag queen storytime events and has also made appearances at the Pride Prom hosted by Identity Inc., Anchorage PrideFest 2019 and a trans leadership summit.

Since January 2019, The Queen’s Guard has grown from nine members to over 30 and the organization’s Facebook page has more than 950 followers.

Leaders of the fledgling organization say it has already known controversy. The group says it partially formed because of protesters outside LGBT events and grew to become a welcoming party drowning out hateful messages with positive ones.

A photo of some people who were at PRIDE Prom 2019.

The formation

Vincent Feuilles was pivotal in forming the group, spearheading the idea while also becoming its founder and president. He said drag queen storytimes at Anchorage’s Loussac Library were a catalyst for the idea as well as the loss of an integral member of the LGBT community.

In late January 2019, Andrea Redeker, an active and outspoken LGBT advocate, died by suicide at the age of 49. Following her death, Feuilles said he began recruiting members for the guard.

"She was so tired, so worn down by all the hate and aggression of this world against her that she chose to not be here anymore. Her passing rocked multiple communities that intersected in her world and again my thoughts turned to the idea of a Queen's Guard. Maybe. Just maybe there was a way to help prevent another death," Feuilles wrote in a Queen’s Guard journal entry.

The year before, local evangelist David Grisham protested, saying "there's no such thing as transgenders," during a drag queen storytime at the library. The ticketed event was part of the 2018 PrideFest week.

Drag queen storytimes are endorsed by the American Library Association, and like many libraries across the country, the Loussac has hosted several. The storytime drew some ire from detractors though, causing a community debate at an Anchorage Assembly meeting about whether drag queen storytime is appropriate.

The Queen’s Guard isn’t security, but they do help diffuse situations. When Queen's Guard first appeared at a drag queen storytime, Feuilles says it was challenging and uplifting. Only 10 people in the group could be there due to short notice; with hand-made signs, members stood outside and people from inside the library began joining the forming crowd.

Feuilles recalled protesters accused people attending of being derelict parents taking their kids to be groomed by pedophiles. By the end, there were nearly 40 people standing together in support of the guard.

Anyone in the community can support the guard, but Feuilles says there are a few rules. No cursing or swearing because kids are present and, he can’t emphasize this enough, don’t interact with any protesters.

A photo of members and supporters of the Queen's Guard at PRIDE 2019, including kids who were drumming in support to drown out counter protesters.

Harassment and mental health

The Queen's Guard believes negative actions and speech create stress, anxiety and fears the LGBT community faces daily. Feuilles says, "It’s this kind of rhetoric and actions and attitude that is affecting our youth so much and it’s affecting our adults as well."

Feuilles described how microaggressions, such as people purposefully misusing pronouns or a bank teller rolling their eyes because of having to interact with a trans person, have an emotional effect on a person or group.

It’s things happening on a regular basis which over time can lead to self-harm or worse; suicide, Feuilles said.

Statistics from the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit independent think tank, estimate there are more than 20,000 adults in Alaska who identify as LGBT, which make up nearly 4% of the state’s population.

Data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed 41% of respondents had attempted suicide, compared to 10-20% of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults and 4.6% of the overall U.S. population that reported a suicide attempt.

According to research from GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey, nearly 60% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, 44% because of their gender expression and 35% because of their gender. Another 35% of students reported missing a day of school within the last month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Almost three-quarters of the students said they avoid school events and extracurricular activities.

The GLSEN report stated 87% of LGBTQ students experienced a form of harassment or assault at school.

“A hostile school climate affects students’ academic success and mental health. LGBTQ students who experience victimization and discrimination at school have worse educational outcomes and poorer psychological well-being,” the report reads.

Further research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports these findings. In a 2015 report, twice as many gay, lesbian and bisexual students reported the following:

  • did not go to school because of safety concerns;
  • having felt sad or hopeless;
  • seriously considered attempting suicide;
  • made a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse

'They are loved. They're wanted.'

Everyone has freedom of speech and is welcome to say whatever they are going to say, but Feuilles says the guard has their message, too.

"The goal of The Queen's Guard is to show our youth that they are accepted, that they are lovable and they are loved. That they’re wanted."

At events with protestors, members also provide escorts for the youth, keeping them talking and engaged so they’re not paying attention to negative things people might say.

“We were at PRIDE Prom earlier this year and we had parents coming up with tears in their eyes hugging us,” Feuilles said, “because their kids were being accepted."

Feuilles says he attributes part of the group's success to working with established organizations in the community like Identity Inc., Choosing Our Roots and Free Mom Hugs.

It was all of their work with the community, particularly with LGBTQ youth, that led several people to organize a fundraiser to help make Queen’s Guard official.

 
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“Several folks in the community — drag queens and drag kings — got together, decided that we’ve been doing all of this stuff at events; we’re there for the youth, we’re there for the community. We’re the unofficial greeters when attendees show up and they wanted to do something to help us get our nonprofit status going," Feuilles said.

On Aug. 17, a drag show at Mad Myrna's raised over $750. Queen’s Guard used some of this money to file a state nonprofit application which has been approved. The group has a little extra money left over from the fundraiser which will help pay for flyers, pamphlets and banners.

Feuilles says he's applying for a Federal 501(c)(3) status next. He says donations would go toward hosting events such as a Friendsgiving or other planned activities, but major grocery stores and companies are more likely to donate if those donations can be tax-deductible. This is only possible if an organization is federally recognized.

Until then, the new nonprofit will continue spreading its message of positivity. The group is planning to be at drag queen storytime — the event that started it all — Oct. 19 at the Loussac Library.

If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available. Call the 24-hour LGBT National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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