FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — During the month of June, the city of Frederick, like many others, usually celebrates Pride. But this year, The Frederick Center wanted to offer a different kind of celebration, one that would keep members of the LGBTQ+ community safe during the midst of the pandemic.
Kris Fair, Executive Director of The Frederick Center, explained Kings, Queens, and Vaccines is an event designed to encourage members of the LGBTQ+ community to get their COVID-19 vaccine.
“We felt at The Frederick Center, it was our job to participate in that process by creating a queer-friendly space for people to come in and get vaccinated,” Fair said.
Alongside the free vaccine clinic, The Frederick Center was also offering free HIV testing to members of the public. Jenny Bell, Emma Maurer, and Emily Bell traveled to Frederick for Kings, Queens, and Vaccines from Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. Jenny and Emma both agreed that providing free HIV screenings allows for members of the LGBTQ+ community to feel included in public, community health efforts.
“It’s really important, especially given how historically, the community has been left out of public health measures or ignored specifically the HIV and aids pandemic,” Jenny Bell said. Emma Maurer agreed and explained, “The government neglect that happened for five years, people are dying and they’re just letting them die. So, I think it’s really awesome that we actually had this support and we have this year.”
Jenny and Emily Bell not only wanted their friend, Emma, to experience their first Pride, but to do so in a safe way. Emma explained events like Kings, Queens, and Vaccines not only increase vaccination efforts especially in the LGBTQ+ community but also sheds light on the importance of Pride. Emma also stated that events like these provide a safe space as well as a beam of hope to members of the community who may not feel safe or are not yet ready to come out.
“You know people are gonna be like, ‘oh, gay people don’t exist,’ or like they’ll try and deny that fact, but whenever we have these like events where people can bond and come together,” Maurer said. “I think it really helps heighten visibility for the community to be like, ‘yes we are here and we are vocal, and we are doing things.’ so I think it means an awful lot.”
Kings, Queens, and Vaccines also treated the crowd to performances by local drag queens, who are encouraging others to get their shot to help not only their industry but also their local community. Ivanna Rights and Araya Sparxx are drag queens from the Western Maryland area who both agreed that their industry largely depends on bars and restaurants fully reopening, which is only likely to happen once vaccination numbers increase.
“The world that we live in and that we work in, it is so important that we’re able to get back to the normality of that and to see all these beautiful faces,” Araya Sparxx explained. “So in order for that to happen, everybody has to get vaccinated for that to move forward.”
Ivanna Rights expressed their gratitude for the crowd who came to the clinic but also for the drag show. They explained that they have not been able to perform for others since the start of the pandemic.
“To see these people show up for an event like this and show their faces and their understanding of how a vaccine is going to help us get back to our normal lives is so important to us as entertainers because this is our business,” Ivanna Rights said. “Being able to see everybody perform, make some money and make some people happy, is what we all need to do as a community.”
The Frederick Center has postponed its annual Pride celebration until October but was excited to offer a safe and smaller celebration during Pride month.
For more information about resources provided by The Frederick Center, please visit their website.