A Brownsville Drag Queen Is Using Her Platform To Promote Safe Sex

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJanuary 2, 2018 1:05 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

A Houston-area family now has a new piano after theirs was destroyed by floods from Harvey. An Instagram video of Aric Harding playing his family’s old piano went viral four months ago. He plays while murky water brims the piano bench and submerges his legs.

A post shared by Aric Harding (@aricharding) on

Singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton saw the video and told CNN that it made her cry. “I myself am a pianist and it occurred to me in that moment, I was like, oh my god, the musicians and the instruments,” Carlton told CNN. “And that’s when I tried to figure out who that man was.”

Carlton did figure out who Harding was and she teamed up with Yamaha Corporation to get the family a replacement. The new piano was delivered at the end of last week.

Harding told the local ABC affiliate in Houston it feels like they’ve come full circle. “So now that we’ve kind of been without it for so long, it’s kind of cool to have it back and this piece back in our house so it will be really awesome.” Harding adds that the real piano player in the family is his son, not him.

One Texan has found a creative way to sidestep social stigmas and raise awareness about sexual health in the Rio Grande Valley.

Joe Uvalles of Brownsville, who performs as drag queen Beatrix Lestrange, is using his public platform to reach out to the local LGBTQ community.

Cat Cardenas is a freelance writer who profiled Uvalles for the website Remezcla. She explained how Uvalles came up with the idea for the program “Drag Out HIV!” which was funded by the University of Texas.

“Because of his work, working with the Valley Aids Council down there, he realized that because drag queens are so approachable within the community that he could really use their platform to kind of promote safe sex and get more information out there about the rise of HIV within the Latino community,” Cardenas says.

Cardenas adds that a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last year found that one in four gay and bisexual Latino men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetimes if current trends continue. Cardenas says the work of Uvalles – and the team of nine drag queens he recruited – is so effective because they’re a part of the LGBTQ community.

“These drag queens realize that because they’re putting themselves out there in such a public way, it kind of makes them more approachable for the community because a lot of the LGBT community especially if you’re from a Hispanic background, those aren’t really things Hispanic people talk about,” Cardenas says.

Uvalles has used the grant money to create promotional calendars featuring this team of what he calls “dragtivists.” The calendars are marked with dates to remind people to get tested. The funds were also used to create personalized makeup boxes containing safe sex materials and condoms, plus business cards to help get the word out about booking the dragtivists for public appearances.