Editor’s note: Some of the names used in this article are stage names.
Some drag stars create a character and embody it when they perform. Beyond the Binary co-founder Sydney Lee uses drag to explore their true self.
“It just feels like channeling parts of myself that have been repressed,” the 24-year-old Gainesville resident said.
The Curious Sheyzé, Sydney Lee and Carlos Zaragoza founded Beyond the Binary to provide a safe environment they felt was missing for people of color and nonbinary individuals within the drag community.
Many performers worry about the future of the art after recent Florida legislation passed restricting drag shows.
In support of the larger LGBTQ community, Beyond the Binary members coordinated and attended a town hall meeting at University Club June 1, where more than 200 people were in attendance.
At the event, a lawyer presented the details of new legislation, and what it means for the drag and LGBTQ community.
Later this month, the six performers plan to take the How Bazar stage June 10 as pride month commences at their upcoming event, BTB: The Blazing Ball.
Starring Aurora Whorealis, Dreamer Knight, Marisol Lords, The Curious Sheyzé, Emma Gration and Kamonii a Dior, the extravaganza will be a night highlighting fashion, culture and inclusion.
Sydney Lee creates content for and manages all of the digital media for Beyond the Binary. The organization uses its platforms to uplift cast members and encourage others to attend their meetings and shows.
Within the drag community, the majority of the performers Lee knew were white and assigned male at birth. As a person who was assigned female at birth, Lee didn’t feel at home in drag, they said.
Lee realized they were not the only nonbinary performer who was assigned female at birth in Gainesville after they met Dreamer Knight, a nonbinary drag performer who was also assigned female at birth.
Aurora Whorealis, a 23-year-old drag queen, became Lee’s drag mother and immersed them into drag.
Aurora Whorealis began her drag career five years ago in South Florida. Outside of performing, she is also an environmental activist who travels across Florida to discuss climate change.
She uses her performances to highlight environmental issues as well. In one performance she addressed the importance of honey bees. The performance began with dubbed audio about native bee populations, then transitioned to the song “Beez in the Trap'' by 2Chainz and Nicki Minaj, then ended with a Beyoncé remix because “she is Queen Bey,” Aurora Whorealis said.
The third co-founder is Carlos Zaragoza, a 24-year-old freelance makeup artist who grew up in a small town an hour north of Gainesville. Growing up without any queer influence pushed
Zaragoza to create a community that celebrates their differences. They moved to Gainesville to start a new chapter with their partner, Aurora Whorealis.
“I met my partner and [she] completely flipped my life on its head and taught me about queer culture,” Zaragoza said. “[She] taught me about ballroom and drag and it's been a really refreshing experience.”
The two met in 2019, and Aurora Whorealis moved from Miami to Gainesville that December to be with Zaragoza.
“It was love at first sight for me,” Aurora Whorealis said. “Now, we’re coming up on our 4 year anniversary this month and we still live in our first townhome with our three kitties that we got together.”
Zaragoza thinks of themself as the makeup father of the house who helps newer drag performers grow into their identities, they said. They oversee all organization partnerships and look for growth opportunities.
They hope that in the future, Beyond the Binary will do more than just shows. Members held a queer-inclusive makeup workshop in the past and plan to host similar events through the organization in the future.
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