Arts·Canada's a Drag

The gospel of Gay Jesus: Meet the Toronto drag artist spreading love across their kingdom

Watch the latest episode of the new CBC Arts docu-series Canada's a Drag, where our country's drag performers sashay into the spotlight.

Watch the latest episode of Canada's a Drag, where our country's drag performers sashay into the spotlight

Gay Jesus. (CBC Arts)

Gay Jesus is just one of the many fabulous subjects featured in Canada's a Drag, a docu-series from CBC Arts that showcases drag artists from across the true North strong and fierce. You can watch all 21 episodes here.​

Heath V. Salazar was raised Roman Catholic, where they were taught that was Jesus represented love and doing good. 

"Then all of a sudden, as a queer person, you have it flipped on you that it's shameful or that they'd be ashamed of you," Salazar says.

Gay Jesus — Salazar's drag king persona and the subject of the latest episode of CBC Arts' docu-series Canada's a Drag — is very much "a process of reclaiming what that means."

STREAM NOW ON CBC GEM: Canada's a Drag – Gay Jesus, Toronto

"A lot of my pieces are very political," Salazar says of their work as Gay Jesus. "So what I really want to do with it is share with people that if this person, theoretically, lived and was able to do all this good and spread all this love, that we are each made of that same matter. We are all capable of that much good and that we have the ability to take agency over that and do that kind of good in the world."

"People think it's controversial, but there's nothing controversial to me about encouraging people to love themselves and be kind to one another."

Gay Jesus at home. (CBC Arts)
 

For Salazar, drag is knowing that "presentation determines your level of safety when you leave the house." 

"It's understanding the everyday impact of a history of hatred towards women," they say. "It's peering through when racism attempts to veil itself as wokeness. It's dismantling a system that works to make itself increasingly more comfortable by devaluing the lives of those it deems unworthy. It's coming to a country for safety and finding the roots of its history to be compromised. It's speaking to an audience that's been told they're better off dead and telling them they have a right to wake up in the morning. It's thanking those who came before me."

A turning point for Salazar was when it was being debated whether to change laws so that transgender kids could be prevented from using the washrooms they wanted to use.

"As a queer person and as a Latinx person, watching that happen to your community and just feeling so powerless just wasn't good enough for me. Like I look at myself and I'm like, 'I've made it to 24 — a lot of us don't.' I just couldn't be quiet anymore. I was done. Ever since then, my approach to drag and what I do with it very much changed."

Gay Jesus performs at Glad Day Bookshop. (CBC Arts)

If you want a little more of Gay Jesus, watch this bonus clip from Canada's a Drag in which they go over a glossary of terminology related to identity:

Get schooled in terminology by Toronto drag king Gay Jesus in this bonus clip from Canada's a Drag. 1:19

Stream seasons 1 and 2 of Canada's a Drag now on CBC Gem.

Series Producers: Mercedes Grundy and Peter Knegt
Episode Directors: Istoica
Packaging Editor: Chanel Klein
Titles Designer: Hope Little​
Special Thanks: Glad Day Bookshop

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since way back in 2016, with highlights including co-hosting weekly live talk show State of the Arts, writing the regular LGBTQ-culture column Queeries and playing integral roles in the launch of series The Filmmakers and Canada's a Drag. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.