10:28 pm - 06/27/2012

Activists confront Sharon Needles in Atlanta

What was intended as a sit-down meeting called by “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Sharon Needles to dialogue with LGBT Atlanta detractors of racial imagery in her act and use of the word “nigger” got heated at Jungle Wednesday as the club prepared for a Needles appearance and possible protest.

Queer Atlantans Enakai and Maura Ciseaux agreed to meet with the drag artist (aka Aaron Cody, photo) to hear Needles’ take on the controversial statements, which she has defended in the past as her right to make as an artist. Reporters as well as Jungle officials also attended for the session, which was the most vocal Needles has been on the issue.

Needles said the meeting was called because detractors in hometown Pittsburgh weren’t willing to have a conversation, instead aiming aiming violence at her and her home. In contrast, she welcomed a dialogue with people willing to have a face-to-face about it. Enakai Cisneaux offered similar stories about the black experience in queer bars that he said don’t provide a safe space for people of color. Instead, he’s faced with gay people stereotyping or flat-out ignoring him.

“My intention was never to hurt anyone,” the performer said in opened the conversation. “As a transgressive artist, I and a lot of my idols use language and shock imagery to juxtapose certain images and words – like I put the word love next to ‘that word’—to mock and shine a light on things that scared the shit out of me when I was young. Another word with a double “g” was thrown at me a lot. I’ve been called faggot, queer, and it scared the shit out me. I know what it’s like to be hurt by those kind of statements, and my intention is to subvert them and bring them to light.”

It’s an expansion of Needles’ viewpoint on the motivation behind her work that she stated in earlier interviews this week.

Enakai Ciseaux countered that performances in Nazi uniforms and signing an autograph for a fan of color with “love you nigger” aren’t juxtaposing anything – and are actually oppressing, not just hurting people.

“You’re not black,” Ciseaux said. “It’s not your world, girl. You can subvert white gay images all you want because you were oppressed by that. No one has ever called you ‘nigger.’ It’s not yours to subvert.”

Conciliatory, Needles nodded in understanding and went on to try and explain that the act, and the performer, are evolving.

“I’ve done a lot of soul searching over the last several days, and the word is out of my vocabulary,” Needles said. “I don’t want to be counter-productive. I want to bring people together,” conceding further that, “I understand that my shows aren’t for everyone and how it can be misconstrued.”

Unsatisfied, the Ciseauxs asserted that Needles statements felt like the performer was saying the offending material was dropped, but that they weren’t hearing a concession that anything was done wrong. They asked for a public apology and for a specific plan for not using racial imagery in the future.

Needles apologized three times for hurting anyone, including the Ciseauxs. “I do apologize for anyone who was offended or hurt, because that was never my intention,” Needles said.

The performer went on to say that the offending word has been removed from her vocabulary. But she stopped short of providing a plan for the future, citing that “I won’t be barked at for an apology and be forced to make a statement. If I decide to do so, it will be on my own terms.”

The discussion devolved rapidly. After making clear that their goal was to “never see [Needles] again” and not frequent Jungle “as long as they employ people like you,” the Ciseauxs stood up and left. After the pair walked out without goodbyes, saying they’d “heard all that we needed to hear,” Needles broke down into tears.

“Language has the power that we give it,” the performer said. “If my art isn’t creating conversations, then what the fuck was this? Real racism hides in dark, filthy places, and I have a big spotlight on me that I try to use to drown out the wrongs of race, religion, gender and creed and put it in the spotlight for all to see. I am more than willing to talk about it. I’m not hiding.”

Despite – and perhaps prodded by – the controversy, Jungle sold out of 300 presale tickets to Wednesday’s show and will accept newcomers at the door until filled to capacity for the Fantasy Girls show. Doors open at 9 p.m. It’s not clear if the protest will still go on.


do you accept her apology?
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oceanhue 28th-Jun-2012 04:50 am (UTC)
I really have no idea who she is.
poop_of_death 28th-Jun-2012 05:50 am (UTC)
I wish I could say the same about the whore in your icon.
furor 28th-Jun-2012 05:57 am (UTC)
don't you feel cool calling her a whore
true_blue26 28th-Jun-2012 05:59 am (UTC)
oh heeeeey, Leslie.
oceanhue 28th-Jun-2012 06:21 am (UTC)
Oh wow, slut shaming a woman. How nice of you.
2wiceasnice 28th-Jun-2012 06:56 am (UTC)
That was unnecessary :(
pantless_deacon 28th-Jun-2012 08:58 am (UTC)
When Kim is accused of Racism, we'll talk.
jonesingjay 28th-Jun-2012 09:41 am (UTC)
think of sharon needles as the female kim kardashian.
caulifloral 28th-Jun-2012 04:50 am (UTC)
sevenbeat 28th-Jun-2012 04:50 am (UTC)

Edited at 2012-06-28 04:50 am (UTC)
poop_of_death 28th-Jun-2012 05:51 am (UTC)
Well shit.
tiddlywinks103 28th-Jun-2012 06:52 am (UTC)
I. Love. This. Skit.
x_brittacular 28th-Jun-2012 07:43 am (UTC)
I need to incorporate that phrase into my life.
interrogatives 28th-Jun-2012 04:52 am (UTC)
jungle was my jam when i lived in ATL. yowza.
paulmitchell 28th-Jun-2012 04:57 am (UTC)
i LOVE the atl, my family has lived there for 12+ years but i have only got back there twice in the past 6 years.. bums me out i wish i could be there more

Edited at 2012-06-28 04:57 am (UTC)
kikai_saigono 28th-Jun-2012 05:33 am (UTC)
"the atl"? lol.
omgigi 28th-Jun-2012 05:06 am (UTC)
yes Jungle and Burkhart's (only when sonique was there) gave me so much. omg and Blake's on Saturday/Sunday...memories~
londonshowers 28th-Jun-2012 04:53 am (UTC)
ixmissxyouxx 28th-Jun-2012 05:31 am (UTC)
OMG are you watching that online?! If you are, where? Cause I really wanna see that.
chantonii 28th-Jun-2012 06:52 am (UTC)
Billie/Kaya as lovers?! This is a thing that exists? Hot damn.

I'm listening to one of Billie's albums rn, I found it when I cleaned out my shed.
purepulp 28th-Jun-2012 11:30 am (UTC)
I love that episode of that show. Lol I haven't even watched the others, but that ep was amazeballs.
celtic_thistle 28th-Jun-2012 07:45 pm (UTC)
I downloaded all of the episodes but lbr I'm only going to watch David's and Billie's.
surreptitially 28th-Jun-2012 08:29 pm (UTC)
omg it was so good.. I wish that story was the whole series.
ritzyroxie 28th-Jun-2012 04:55 am (UTC)
kikai_saigono 28th-Jun-2012 04:55 am (UTC)
I'm so fucking tired of people thinking that an upside down cross is edgy and what the fuck have you. The upside down cross was used as a way of showing you were subservient to jesus. One of his disciples (don't remember who, don't make me go get my fucking bible out of my closet, i haven't touched it in 16 years) asked to be crucified upside down because he didn't feel he was worthy of being crucified the same way jesus was.

the fucking pope has an upside down cross on his throne! For fucks sake!

Also I don't even know who she is and don't like her already so there's that.
interrobamf 28th-Jun-2012 05:03 am (UTC)
Yes, this is the problem here.
kikai_saigono 28th-Jun-2012 05:05 am (UTC)
I said I don't like her, and I don't even know her so my dislike of her is because she's racist and uses racist remarks and is like "ohhhh i didn't mean to hurt anyone!". So what's the problem here, I already said I didn't like her. I'm stating another reason why I don't like her.
babbss 28th-Jun-2012 06:38 am (UTC)
bb who is that cutie in your icon?
cadaver_andante 28th-Jun-2012 05:12 am (UTC)
i believe it was St Peter, the first pope~

people wearing his cross to be edgy, what a tribute, tbh
lestat 28th-Jun-2012 05:24 am (UTC)
quit derailing, potter
malzazzle 28th-Jun-2012 05:27 am (UTC)
People need to learn to appreciate history.
ladycakes 28th-Jun-2012 05:31 am (UTC)
The cross is an upside down phallic symbol. Came about way before Jesus was even an idea.
theonlykow 28th-Jun-2012 05:39 am (UTC)
There are two different interpretations of the upside-down cross, and while the original meaning still exists in the Catholic church, it's been absorbed into a variety of anti-gnostic belief systems. The symbol has evolved in two different ways, similar to the Nazi's co-opting the Buddhist swastika.

It's all about context.
fuckyess 28th-Jun-2012 10:27 am (UTC)
idk maybe you don't realize this but symbols and words have meaning that change

maybe that's news to you
fuckyess 28th-Jun-2012 10:28 am (UTC)
oh and turning ANYTHING upside down has long been a way to show you're against it

you tried tho
hallo_katzchen 29th-Jun-2012 02:57 am (UTC)
iirc, It's the cross of St. Peter, yes?
paulmitchell 28th-Jun-2012 04:56 am (UTC)
WHY!!! i feel like more and more white people think it's okay to say this word.. i was out at a bar this past weekend and there's this guy who's always there, he grew up in the neighborhood same as my boyfriend so we all talk here and there but he just bugs me.. he thinks hes a hilarious stand-up comedian.. but let me tell you he is NOT funny whatsoever. well anyway we went outside and all of a sudden i heard someone say the n word and i turn around and it was him. i said "are you serious? did you really just say that?" and he was all matter of factly "YES I DID!!" and i was like "yeah no surprise there." and for a split second i thought you better be thankful there are only white people here and then i heard this guy go "yeah man that shit isn't cool" and i turned and it was a black guy.. that guy is such an idiot. i never liked being around him before but if i see him again i'm definitely going to tell him to fuck off. politely.
fusilli_head 28th-Jun-2012 05:06 am (UTC)
it's funny you mention that white people are ballsier about the n word these days because my mom and I were just talking about that. I feel like it's a symptom of having a black president and people thinking that racism is officially over now. I have never in my life seen so people be completely nonchalant about being bigoted idiots. I'm talking even close friends of mine feeling like they can tell me that I'm too sensitive to racial slurs.
paulmitchell 28th-Jun-2012 05:08 am (UTC)
i could see that! i was friend with a black guy who told me it was okay to say the n word around him and i was like hell no i'm not comfortable with that, i just feel the most horrible.. and he was like it's ok my girl friends say it!! i was like no thanks.
kikai_saigono 28th-Jun-2012 05:10 am (UTC)
i don't understand why people think "racism is over now (which is laughable) = I can say racist words!"
true_blue26 28th-Jun-2012 06:04 am (UTC)
Um I don't really think its a symptom of having a black president. It's more a symptom of people being dicks.
shining_starsxx 28th-Jun-2012 06:16 am (UTC)
It's strange.Some of the friends I've had for years think it's okay to just say racist shit.Then when I try to explain whay it's hurtful I'm being sensitive.
rctshack 28th-Jun-2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
No, not at all. It's the symptoms of the black community throwing it around like it's ok to be said, putting it on the radio, making people read it daily in texts, and then naming the title of a song with it so that people think it's normal to use.

It's a sad reality that the black community wants two separate worlds based on your skin color (ohh the irony) and that somehow a word can be both positive and negative. So yes, people do get confused on how it exactly is represented in society as a word. If it's going to be used as a positive "taken back" word then it's used as that, such as dyke which anyone is allowed to use because they want it to be a positive word. Or if it's such a bad word that the world explodes when someone uses it, then make that word never used again.

The answer to your question above is simple, but sadly we turn a blind eye to the hypocrisy that is the N-word. If you don't want anyone using it, don't use it yourself. If the meaning of a word changes by how you use it, then that pretty much means Sharon did nothing wrong because she didn't mean it as hate speech... but if the word is pure hate no matter how it's used... then the word shouldn't be used at all, by ANYONE.

And as much as you will come back with a "You're dumb and ignorant" or "I don't understand because i'm white"... well then that answers the question above also, maybe it's because it's not fully understood... but screaming it in every song lyric and having me hear it on the street everyday used in a positive sense between people is what causes the ignorance and lack of understanding. You can't expect to create a confusing hypocritical situation and not have people mistakenly use it the wrong way.

And i think it's more hateful to tell me to look at my own skin color constantly and remind me that i am not equal to the people around myself. Why kind of society are we when we want equality and then create words that can only be used based on your skin color. Stop defending the use of this word by anyone, or let everyone say it.
lestat 28th-Jun-2012 05:24 am (UTC)
devour_theflesh 28th-Jun-2012 04:56 am (UTC)
No, sorry. If you want to be shocking and edgey and uncompromising, then accept that others will also interpret you as ignorant and hurtful. If you want to be respectful and respected, understand where the boundaries are.
mynamehere07 28th-Jun-2012 07:28 am (UTC)
Yes. I don't get why someone wants to be "edgy and shocking," throw an "art" label on it and then wonder why people get pissed.

But I don't know anything about Sharon Needles except for what I read here.
patentpending 28th-Jun-2012 04:58 am (UTC)
Why don't people understand that "words only have the power you give them" is actually just and even more condescending way of saying, "you're too sensitive if you're offended by my clearly insensitive bullshit". It's such a transparent cop out.
noon 28th-Jun-2012 05:03 am (UTC)
yes, preach
callme_morbid 28th-Jun-2012 05:12 am (UTC)
paulmitchell 28th-Jun-2012 05:28 am (UTC)
kapuki234 28th-Jun-2012 05:25 am (UTC)
this dumb fucking moron.
vivisexion 28th-Jun-2012 06:29 am (UTC)
true dat
lordfoldemort 28th-Jun-2012 09:20 am (UTC)
alienclit 28th-Jun-2012 02:09 pm (UTC)
Words do only have the power people give them, though. But I don't see how that's relevant to argue in favor of using the word. People have given that word power and severity, therefore you should be more careful when using it or not using it and not the other way around.

Edited at 2012-06-28 02:10 pm (UTC)
eccentricvibe 28th-Jun-2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
anniemann101 i. can't. stand. this. bitch.28th-Jun-2012 02:27 pm (UTC)
this. also "freedom of speech!!!!..... but don't say things that will hurt people" is also another oxymoronic sentence i hate people in general for.

there is no fucking freedom of speech. logic. common sense. that is what people need to preach about. freedom of speech is the mentality of people like this drag hag.
apartmentlife 29th-Jun-2012 07:02 am (UTC)
courtkneee1 28th-Jun-2012 04:58 am (UTC)
if she apologized and moved on i would have still supported her, cause she was my fav up until all this.

but she's being so defensive. nhft.
hotguy8604 28th-Jun-2012 04:59 am (UTC)
ectypes 28th-Jun-2012 05:10 am (UTC)
hotguy8604 28th-Jun-2012 05:23 am (UTC)
sorryeden 28th-Jun-2012 05:20 am (UTC)
now i know who earl's inspiration is
briknowsbest 28th-Jun-2012 05:00 am (UTC)
What an idiot
omgigi 28th-Jun-2012 05:00 am (UTC)
robintheshrew 29th-Jun-2012 01:27 am (UTC)
Omg, I wish my school had that class D:
alexislex 29th-Jun-2012 06:52 pm (UTC)
I'm at GSU too!! WST major!
omgigi 29th-Jun-2012 10:30 pm (UTC)
ME TOO!!!!!

I graduated last May. WST/Soci holllaaaaaa
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