Divisive Test Of Character

Courant.com – By Vanessa De La Torre, Courant Staff Writer

Shirley Q. Liquor is a drag queen known across the nation for performing as a poor black Southern woman with 19 children, a welfare boozer who speaks in Ebonics. Her shows are usually packed to capacity, with audience members laughing in hysterics, many of them white. “How you durrin?” she greets them.

But without the housedress, the bright wig, dark cosmetics and orange lipstick, Shirley Q. is a white minister from Kentucky named Chuck Knipp.

Later this month, Knipp is scheduled to perform his blackface routine at the Chez Est in Hartford, drawing condemnation from some patrons who call the performance a modern-day minstrel show that has no place at the friendly neighborhood gay bar, especially during Black History Month.

The controversy threatens to splinter the gay community and raise debate over censorship and sensitivity. People who counted each other as allies in the fight against discrimination are suddenly accusing each other of being ignorant. Or, as Shirley Q. says in her show, “ignunt.”