Manitoba

Brandon hosts first-ever drag brunch as LGBTQ events gain momentum in the city

LGBTQ community members are rallying to help build safe spaces and connections in Manitoba's second largest city. The city saw it's first-ever drag brunch Sunday.

Flora Hex performed at Black Wheat Brewing to celebrate its anniversary Sunday

Brandon performer Flora Hex hosts a drag brunch performance at Black Wheat Brewing on Sunday. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Brandon's premier drag performer Flora Hex played to a full house Sunday for the city's first-ever drag brunch.

It's been an exhilarating year for the LGBTQ community in southwestern Manitoba, Hex said. She hosted her first drag show ever almost a year ago and recently held a drag workshop and show at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in March.

She said she's amazed at the momentum LGBTQ events are gaining in the Prairie community.

"The amount of things that have happened in Brandon that are associated with the community is, I think, pleasing to me and exciting to me," she said.

"There is an interest for people to be visible and be seen and active in the community."

Hex lip-syncs to a Demi Lovato song. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

A staff member at Black Wheat Brewing saw Hex perform at the art gallery, which led to a collaboration to celebrate the brewery's first anniversary with a drag brunch.

For Hex, drag is an art form and creative outlet. She described it as a tool to create change because of the powerful statement a vibrant outfit can make.

"Just being visible ... the visible part is the most important thing and whatever shape that form takes because being visible literally can save lives and it also can help motivate others," Hex said.

An audience member takes a video of Hex performing. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

She hopes to see the number of Pride events continue to grow in Brandon.

"The whole purpose of why I started doing drag was to create more events like this for Brandon and create more space for people that would use it," Hex said.

"I think it's great that like local businesses are gaining interest in wanting to like be involved in the community here."

There can be some pushback against the LGBTQ events, she said, just like in any other community, but even these experiences can be positive.

"Pushback is good because it creates conversation. So I think it's been really, really good. Like it's been well-received, a variety of events and things like that," Hex said.

Hex grew up on a farm north of Elkhorn, Man. She moved to Brandon to attend university.

Hex serenades an audience member. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

When she first arrived in Brandon there was no solid LGBTQ community, she said. Most events took place during Pride Week.

The lack of festivities year-round partially inspired Hex to start performing drag to help foster fellowship and create safe spaces.

"I saw a niche for someone to be in to help motivate others and the community itself to kind of like, do more," Hex said.

It was exciting to celebrate the brewery's one-year anniversary in Brandon with a drag brunch, said Black Wheat Brewing president Ted Birch.

The drag show was inspired by the staff at the brewery, he said.

"It's something new and exciting for Brandon," Birch said. "Everybody's just really having a good time and happy to be here"

Hex performs a drag show. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Growth of pride events 'heartwarming'

It was exciting to see a drag show organized in the community outside of the Brandon Pride committee and Pride Week, said Samantha Robinson of Brandon Pride.

Pride-based events are gaining traction in the community, she said, describing people as "hungry" for LGBTQ festivities in the community.

"It's just been really heartwarming and really wonderful to see how much we really are needed here in town. And I think that that just bodes well for having more events throughout the year in the future," Robinson said.

The drag brunch marked an organic growth of the pride community in Brandon and demonstrated the community's receptivity to celebrating LGBTQ culture year-round, Robinson said.

Events like the drag brunch remain essential because members of the LGBTQ community can still face stigma, Robinson said. Normalizing LGBTQ celebrations sends a powerful message in combating these stigmas.

"I think that it's just nice to see there being so much support and hopefully that trickles down and that the people that maybe still don't feel that way start to realize that again, these are just my neighbours," Robinson said. "This is just them having a safe space to be themselves."

Hex lip-syncs to an Alanis Morissette song on the Black Wheat Brewery patio. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chelsea Kemp

Brandon Reporter

Chelsea Kemp is a multimedia journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is based in CBC's bureau in Brandon, covering stories focused on rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback with chelsea.kemp@cbc.ca.

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