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Beyoncé Fans Reflect on Election Year Concerns at San Francisco Drag Show

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A woman in a white sequined dress and cowboy hat kneels on one leg on a catwalk, surrounded by the audience and lit in red
Bionka Simone performs Beyoncé’s ‘Texas Hold ‘Em’ at Oasis in San Francisco on Saturday, April 6, 2024. The show drew a sold-out crowd of drag fans and members of the Beyhive as an all-Black cast celebrated the release of Beyoncé’s new album, ‘Cowboy Carter.’ (Juliana Yamada/KQED)

Earlier this month, Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter galloped into the national psyche in all of its flag-waving, countrified glory.

Considering Beyoncé’s status as an artist unafraid to invoke political imagery in both her music and her visuals — not to mention the way this album has turned into a battleground over who “owns country”— it’s unsurprising that many of her fans consider themselves politically conscious, too.

We at KQED set out to ask Beyoncé fans at San Francisco’s Oasis nightclub, directly before a Beyoncé-themed drag show, about the state of America and the issues with which they’re most concerned in this election year.

A trio of tattooed and flamboyant people, including two in cowboy hats, smile and line up before a pink and red mural.
(L-R) Lance Derick, Joshua Carrasco and James Aceves. Carrasco, who is a pediatric resident at UCSF, says access to healthcare and health insurance is a huge factor in his voting decisions. (Juliana Yamada/ KQED)

Joshua Carrasco came to the Beyoncé party with two friends, having arrived in San Francisco from Texas almost a year ago. As a pediatric resident at UCSF, Carrasco says he’s concerned about the links between poor health, underfunded education and a lack of affordable housing.

“When it comes to queer communities, housing is such an important social determinate of health that I think is undervalued within the San Francisco area,” Carrasco said. “A lot of the Props that were voted on [in the last election] went in a direction that I was not anticipating. I think San Francisco flaunts itself as progressive, but I think in action, it’s less progressive than I had anticipated.”

A smiling woman wearing a wide brimmed black hat and leather jacket stands with a shorter woman wearing her hair in braids and a short skirt. They are standing before a pink and red mural.
Annika Gabriel (L) and Gabby Huckabee (R). Both expressed concern about the age of the presidential candidates, as well as concern for their friends of color. (Juliana Yamada/ KQED)

Asked how she’s feeling about the 2024 election, Annika Gabriel said simply: “I’m real worried about my trans friends.”

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At Gabriel’s side was Gabby Huckabee, who said she is “upset for my Muslim friends [and] for my friends of color.”

Huckabee continued, “It’s very upsetting to me that out of everyone they could have possibly chosen for both parties, [Biden and Trump] are the two they still have come up with. I’m not optimistic for the future. I’m still going to vote for Joe Biden. Because I’m very clearly opposed to Donald Trump grabbing people by the pussy.”

A Black man smiles broadly in front of a neon-lit O sign at night.
Aaron McCall has the environment at the forefront of his mind during this election year. (Juliana Yamada/ KQED)

Despite not feeling enthusiastic about either presidential candidate, Aaron McCall was another attendee determined to make a difference in whichever way he can.

“When we are choosing people to vote for, it is not a moral statement and it’s not a statement of who we like,” the climate charity worker emphasized. “It is a statement of who we’re going to work with and who’s going to work with us.”

“Republicans have actively said they are going to target and attack queer [folks] and people of color,” McCall continued, “and they’re going to destroy the environment in the process.”

A slender white man in a Beyonce t-shirt, an Arabic man wearing a blue shirt and an Asian woman in a black leather jacket stand with arms around each other outside a nightclub.
(L-R) Sean Dante Remigio, Mahmoud Dabbah and Mara Lee. Dabbah isn’t happy with President Biden’s support of Israel and feels there isn’t much difference between Biden and Trump. (Juliana Yamada/ KQED)

Mahmoud Dabbah, a Palestinian who has lived in America for three years, believes Biden’s ability to get reelected will be greatly impacted by the president’s support of Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

“You can see that clearly. I think the whole world is pissed off,” Dabbah said. “This war is horrible and the U.S. is a big part of it. I hope it stops soon.”

Asked if he worries about the consequences of another Trump presidency, Dabbah stated: “After what I saw from Biden, I don’t care anymore. It’s all the same for me as an immigrant.”

Dabbah’s friend Sean Dante Remigio agreed. “It feels very much a losing game either way,” he said. “I mean, it’s not even choosing between a lesser of two evils. There is no choice. That is the conflict.”

Two young people of color stand side by side inside a nightclub with thoughtful expressions on their faces.
(L) Rogue and (R) Stephane are both concerned about houselessness and access to healthcare in San Francisco. (Juliana Yamada/ KQED)

Remigio’s thoughts were echoed by Rogue and Stephane. (Both declined to give last names.) Though the friends remain concerned with housing and healthcare in San Francisco, they don’t see an upcoming face-off between Trump and Biden offering real solutions to the nation’s problems.

“I feel like the options are not great,” Stephane, an international student, said. “Even if I was allowed to vote, I would need better options. I don’t really care about either of the candidates.”

“Yeah,” Rogue laughed, “it’s like: Poo-Poo or Pee-Pee!”

Two white women, one with a ponytail, one with cropped purple hair, stand close together, smiling warmly at each other.
Married couple Sunny and Reece Johnson are politically disillusioned — one more so than the other. (Juliana Yamada/ KQED)

Also disillusioned with the election are Sunny and Reece Johnson, who’ve been happily married for 11 years.

“I will tell you that I have stopped thinking about [the election] because it’s distressing,” Reece said. “I do feel very unmotivated to vote, because I’m so burned out on the drama.”

“I would never not vote, though,” Sunny interjected. “Never.”

Reece shrugged. “I would like to say that I would never not vote, but I’m so disenchanted.”

A drag queen strikes a pose in black lingerie and red dressing gown, next to a wooden fence decorated with lights.
Xochitl the Queen poses on the roof deck of Oasis shortly before performing on April 5, 2024. Xochitl works in deportation defense at USF Law and uses her drag to make political statements. (Juliana Yamada/ KQED)

One fan who wishes she could vote is drag queen Xochitl. Shortly before her performance as auburn-haired temptress Jolene, Xochitl said she is “low-key scared” about the upcoming election.

“My future as a performer, as an artist, as an immigrant and as a member of this society is at risk, depending on who wins,” she said. “They say we have a choice, but it’s an illusion of a choice.”

As a DACA recipient, Xochitl is not eligible to vote, but strives to make a difference through her job at USF Law. She also utilizes performance to express herself politically.

“I make my voice heard by doing art, doing drag,” Xochitl explained. “My drag is inherently political. I’ve done numbers on stage where I burn the American flag as protest, as part of my work in deportation defense. I express my fear about drag bans through my art.”

A person with glasses and short dark haircut, stands hands in pockets in front of a pink and red mural.
Dani Arevalos says their biggest concern as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is being respected and acknowledged as a person. (Juliana Yamada/ KQED)

Like many people we spoke with at Oasis, LGBTQ issues are front and center for Dani Arevalos, who feels dehumanized by recent attacks on gender nonconforming people.

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“Looking to the future, my biggest concern is being respected as a human being,” Arevalos said. “I come from the Latin community, and also being LGBTQ … Honestly two very different communities [with] the same issue of being oppressed. I think going forward, being respected and being acknowledged [will help us] to move forward as a nation together.”

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