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Lynchburg LGBTQ community reconnects with drag after months of isolation

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Lynchburg does not have many spaces that are specifically affirming to the queer community, but one such venue finally reopened after the COVID-19 shutdown.

There are no official gay bars in Lynchburg, but on Sunday nights, the restaurant Dish opens its doors to the local LGBTQ community. Once a month, they host drag shows with drag artists coming in from Roanoke, Charlottesville, and Richmond. However, that’s been on hold throughout this pandemic, until Sunday, June 21.

“Here we are again as a queer community after three months of struggle and hardship, everyone being isolated and alone,” said Yael Childers, a Lynchburg resident who identifies as a lesbian.

For her and others, Sunday night was a chance to reconnect with chosen family.

“Oh this has been one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time,” said Lynchburg resident Jamey Hagy, who brought his boyfriend to the show. “I’m in company of some of my best friends.”

For queer people, a chosen family can be more important than the family they were born into, and months of quarantine with relatives amplifies that significance for Childers.

“When you’re a queer person and you grow up in a family that doesn’t really accept that, it’s like you spend your whole life feeling like you’re out of place,” she said.

It’s why walking through the doors of Dish for the first drag night in months means so much.

“It feels like you’re finally actually where you belong and you’re with people who accept you and love you,” said Childers.

Hagy agrees, saying, “Having the opportunity to use drag to be proud enough of myself and my partner that we can stand on the streets of Lynchburg and support each other and be happy and not have to hide our feelings.”

Roanoke-based drag queen Amazon Rome has been hosting the monthly shows in Lynchburg for a year and a half and says queer visibility is important for young LGBTQ people.

“They shouldn’t be afraid to express and be themselves and that there’s other people in the community that may or may not feel the same way, but we’re all in this together,” said Rome.

“I’m just really happy to have this community in Lynchburg that supports each other and loves each other,” said Childers.

June is LGBTQ Pride month, so the shows started back just in time for the community to celebrate.

Sunday, June 28 marks the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. The Stonewall Inn is a gay bar in New York City that was regularly raided by police. Many attribute the start of the modern gay rights movement to June 28, 1969, the night when patrons fought back as police tried to arrest them.

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