When Marcus Gulatte, iconically known on stage as Aalora Banks, rounded the corner of Opelika’s Christmas parade dressed as one of the four “Mean Girls,” he knew the experience could go either way: Hate or support.
“The performance was everything (great),” he said. But, the “cowards” came out later. “The loudest of them all,” he said, was former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville.
“Hard to believe that right in my own backyard the city of Opelika allows drag queens in the city Christmas Parade which was held this weekend. What is next?” wrote Tuberville, who is seeking the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat, in a Facebook post today.
Tuberville’s post currently sits on a semi-viral 2.1K comments and almost 400 shares. The performance was “family friendly” and appropriate, according to multiple drag queens. Gulatte was speechless when he first saw the post, but he started sinking the further he went through the comments. He noticed two words used frequently.
“I am not ‘sick and I am not disgusting’,” he said. “I used my art in drag to celebrate Christmas in my community. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
And Auburn is his community — born and raised. He was a member of the Auburn High School drum line and came out publicly to his community at 19 years old. He knows personally how much work there is to do in the community. What happened to the “Auburn Family,” asked Gulatte rhetorically.
Pride on the Plains, a local LGBTQ organization that aims to educate and celebrate in Auburn and Opelika, is nearing their third year of work. Colana Bleu, a member of the Pride on the Plains board, said she finds herself getting comfortable in Auburn until posts like these flare up. The team works year-round to educate those who have issues with the LGBTQ community. She knew a response of this nature could happen, but she couldn’t predict when or from who.
“It’s hard when you think you’ve come so far and someone posts something like this,” she said.
Colana Bleu finding comfort isn’t completely surprising. Opelika hosts multiple weekly events featuring drag queens. Bleu and Gulatte both perform at the Corner Bar above Irish Bred Pub and have an active presence in other restaurants around Downtown Opelika.
Not all community members agreed with the lifestyles of the drag queens and some showed their frustration in the comments. “Completely disgusting!!! Where are our religious leaders ??? What the hell is wrong with Opelika ??? This always hell to pay when you turn your back on God !!!!,” Jimmy Leath, an Auburn local, commented on the Facebook post.
There are multiple events coming up, according to a comment on Tuberville’s post from the organization’s president, Chad Peacock. He welcomed what he described as the “half-assed” football coach to join in on the festivities.
“He shot himself in the foot,” Bleu said. People are seeing his true colors, she said. And she wants people to know that being gay isn’t all she is. “I’m so much more than that. Educate yourselves,” she said.
“Coach, these queens are a fun group and a big part of the local community,” Jeremy Leff, an Auburn graduate, commented on the Facebook post. “As someone who is a community leader and running for office, I would encourage you to try to be a bit more open-minded and inclusive. I’m willing to bet if you got to know them, you might feel differently,” he told Tuberville.
The queens said they plan to continue performing and working for an inclusive society.