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Pride was memorialized on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday when city officials renamed a street for Bianca Paige, one of the city’s most legendary drag queens and HIV/AIDS activists.
Nashville city officials, including Mayor John Cooper, dedicated the former Carney Street as Bianca Paige Way at a dedication ceremony Saturday. The location is significant to Paige’s history as the gay bar Trax, where Paige regularly performed and held court, is located on the street.
“Today, I joined so many to celebrate and honor the life of Bianca Paige, a Nashville legend,” said Cooper. “It’s really amazing. Mark’s legacy in town is so memorable, and everything he’s done for HIV and AIDS. Eleven years later, we’re still celebrating him and honoring him,” Ron Sanford, a close friend of Paige, told News4 Nashville.
Brought to life by performer Mark Middleton, Paige was a staple at drag performances across Nashville for decades until his death from lymphoma in 2010, but Middleton’s true legacy lies in his fundraising efforts for HIV/AIDS research and treatment. He put a face to the cause in Nashville in the mid-90s when he publicly revealed his HIV-positive status on-stage during a performance.
“Mark decided that he was going to be the one, to be the only performer, to use his stage and his persona to get it out there,” Sanford said. “He was determined to not only tell kids and people what was going on, but to get tested and to know your status.”
Middleton donated tips from his performances to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Pediatric and Adolescent HIV/AIDS clinic. Middleton and Sanford founded the Bianca Paige Awareness Network to continue their HIV?AIDS advocacy and Middleton added charity events and advocacy work with Nashville Cares, ultimately raising upward of $1 million dollars for the cause before his death.
“That’s how we took care of our sick. If we – our own people – would not have come in and done the things that we did, there would have been thousands and thousands more that died,” Sanford told the Nashville Scene. “When we lost Mark 11 years ago, Nashville became a little less colorful and a lot less raucous,” Cooper said. The city celebrated Paige during Pride month in Nashville with Bianca Paige Day celebrations since 2011.
Cooper and others claimed during the dedication that Bianca Paige Way was the first street named for a drag queen, but there have been at least two streets previously rechristened to honor notable queens. The first known street to hold that honor is San Francisco, CA’s Jose Sarria Court, named for groundbreaking drag performer and political activist Jose Sarria in 2006.
Sarria, proclaimed as Empress Jose I, founded the League for Civil Education in 1960, the Imperial Court of San Francisco in 1965 and became the first out gay man to run for political office when he pursued a seat on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors.
In 2019, Columbus, OH renamed Hull Alley to Nina West Way for notable Rupaul’s Drag Race competitor Nina West.
Even if Bianca Paige Way isn’t the first in the nation, the historic nature of its dedication isn’t lessened. It guarantees that the memory of Nashville’s most prolific and beloved queen will persist and inspire for years to come. “Do I think that he thought that he would ever have a street named after him? No. He knew he was doing good,” Sanford said. “He used to say, ‘My talent is God’s gift to me. What I do with that talent is my gift to God and my community.’ … we have to keep the name out there and get people revitalized with it.”
Nashville: Previously on Towleroad
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The singer and activist made the bold statement in response to hateful comments he had received to pics he posted recently.
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Screenshot”My community, you are always in my heart. My win is our win. We just made history. Happy pride.” Read More LGBTQ Nation
It’s a touchdown, henny!
Trans Toilet Case: In a limited but important victory for transgender access, the U.S. Supreme Court announced June 28 that it would not review a lower court decision that favored a transgender student’s restroom access at a public high school.
The court declined a request by a Virginia public school district to review a decision of the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which covers five states—Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Maryland. By refusing to hear the appeal, the high court leaves the favorable decision intact for those states.
The case, Gloucester v. Grimm, has been on the U.S. Supreme Court docket before. In 2017, the high court vacated a previous Fourth Circuit ruling in favor of high school student Gavin Grimm, who was represented by the ACLU. Grimm had filed suit after he began transitioning and sought use of the boys’ restroom because he said girls reacted negatively to his presence in the girls’ restrooms because they perceive him to be a boy.
School officials initially accommodated Grimm’s request, but the school district intervened after some parents complained. The ACLU pressed Grimm’s case and won, and the Fourth Circuit repeatedly ruled in Grimm’s favor.
In the latest go-round, the Fourth Circuit ruled in Grimm’s favor, citing the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Bostock v. Clayton (that “sex discrimination” under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act includes sexual orientation and gender identity). The appeals court said the same logic should apply to the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education.
“After the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, we have little difficulty holding that a bathroom policy precluding Grimm from using the boys’ restrooms discriminated against him ‘on the basis of sex’,” said the Fourth Circuit.
The Gloucester school district in Virginia appealed again to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that, under Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act, schools are allowed to provide separate bathrooms for the sexes. By refusing to hear the appeal, the Supreme Court does not take a position on the issue, but the impact is meaningful.
“This is an incredible victory for Gavin and for transgender students around the country,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s national LGBTQ & HIV Project.
Paul Castillo, an attorney with Lambda Legal, also called the Supreme Court’s refusal to take the appeal an “incredible victory.”
“There should be no doubt that federal law requires schools to protect all students. Courts all over the country, as well as the federal government have made crystal clear that LGBTQI+ students are protected by federal law and have a right to an equal education, to be protected against harassment and discrimination, and to a school environment where they can be their authentic selves,” said Castillo.
Specifically, the Fourth Circuit ruled—and the Supreme Court allowed to stand—that Title IX of the Education Amendments Act and the equal protection clause of the constitution “can protect transgender students from school bathroom policies that prohibit them from affirming their gender.”
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito indicated they dissented from the court’s refusal to take the appeal.
The Supreme Court did not indicate June 28 whether it will hear two other LGBTQ-related appeals. One, Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, is making its second appearance on the high court’s potential case list. It, like Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado, asks whether a business serving the public can deny service to a same-sex couple because of the business owner’s religious hostility to same-sex marriage.
The other, Dignity Health v. Minton, asks whether a Catholic-run hospital can deny a hysterectomy to a female-to-male transgender patient as part of treatment for gender dysphoria. The hospital chain in question says its Catholic-run hospitals would be violating Catholic “religious directives” to provide such treatment.
© 2021 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.
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