Shirley Delta Blow, a fifty’s housewife with gigantic pearls around her neck like Jackie O, speaks into the mic with an east coast accent, “Hello everybody, how are we doing tonight?” Her dress dotes unicorns and rainbows and her red heels match her hair. Shirley, a thirty-year activist for the queer community of Denver has seen and heard all the disrupt from both sides, allies and protestors.
What Ms. Blow shows on the exterior is her drag alias, but once in conversation with her, her passion, activism, education, and empowerment for others rains out turning into a flash flood of courage, strength, enjoyment, and hope. Shirley Delta Blow is the hottest housewife to invade the Greater Denver Area, but it didn’t come overnight.
When asked about her activism career, she began with a story based off the 1989 movie Steel Magnolias. A movie based on tragedy, good fortune, strength, and closure. Shirley used her acting skills and reenacted the whole movie in 4 minutes while using barbie dolls as props. She would go on to win that pageant in 2011, held by the Colorado Gay Volleyball Association. A judge from the pageant and her would then collaborate and begin an entertainment relationship over the next few years. Repetition worked in her favor. The Denver Center would contact her, asking her to write and produce a drag themed show, sprouting and spreading the works of local drag entertainers throughout the city and suburbs.
However, the success did not come from colorful rainbows or positive light. Drag Queen bingo was birthed from Drag Queen fundraisers and then celebrated by the Emmy winning show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Back in the 1970’s, fundraisers were held for gay men who couldn’t afford to pay their medical bills, and bingo was an easy way to bring in money. It is an easy game, everyone has fun. There is usually not a sad soul in the place. Nowadays, Drag Bingo is more than just a fundraiser. It is a community builder.
During the decade of the 90’s Colorado passed Amendment 2, barring any city or entity to give any individual identifying as an LGBTQ member any special laws or privileges. This sparked strength in the then ghettoized queer area of Capitol Hill from its straight communities that surrounded it. This set off the “religious freedom” movement within the city. It would become the precursor to incidents such as the anti-gay florist and anti-gay wedding cake baker.
However, Cheeseman Park would thrive and provide a safe haven for identifying individuals because “If you wanted to find gay people, you’d have to go to a gay bar (Charlie’s) or Cheeseman Park,” she says, “Anywhere else and you’d feel isolated and targeted.”
Drag Bingo is the just the opposite. Yes, it’s a fun night out with your friends or family, but it’s more than that. Everyone is invited despite their lifestyle choices. No one is isolated. No one is targeted, unless the queen throws a joke at you, but it’s all in good fun.
When explaining how acting and activism are related, she said “The acting gave me the community, gave me the relationships, gave me the people, and then when those moments happen,” while on the topic of the upcoming 25th anniversary of Matthew Shepard, “I was in a play at the time and we just looked around and thought to each other, Wow! This stuff is happening, and we’re not going to go silently.” The result of that is the Denver queer community would be present at marches, parades, protests at the State Capital.
And their presence would be shown in color, love, courage, hope, and heart. Their presence whether political or over a game of bingo means hatred won’t slow their progress. Ms. Shirley Delta Blow hosts drag bingo in straight communities not because she sought them out, but because the community saw her positive actions and sought her out. May it be to change their residents or to be open to the orientational education of others. Whatever the case, it is working to strengthen the past and build the future, where individuals are not feared for being themselves, but loved for it.