Queer Comedian Aims To Loosen The Bible Belt And Make Queer Kids Safe
Lesbian comedian Kristen Becker is on a mission to change the Bible Belt’s queerphobia.
Kristen Becker photographed by Kim Sakamoto
Despite the fact that marriage equality is now the legal status quo in every state across America, LGBTI acceptance definitely is not. While many states have embraced queer inclusion and diversity, and have reflected this in their social attitudes, their homeowner and rental clauses, their schoolrooms, and their workplaces, there are still a darn lot of them that haven’t.
Some of America’s least inclusive states are scattered around what is (un)affectionately termed, “The Bible Belt.” While there are of course some small queer communities in the towns and cities of states like Arizona, Alabama, Louisiana and Oklahoma, homophobic and transphobic discourse still pervades most areas of life. This obviously has a detrimental effect on the LGBTI people who live in them – and especially on LGBTI youth. High school is a tough time for anyone who is different, let alone for people whose sexuality and/or gender identity immediately makes them a target for normalized queerphobic vitriol.
Kristen tells it like it is.
Lesbian comedian Kristen Becker is trying to change this through every channel she has open to her. On the one hand, she leads her queer comedy troupe to clubs and small venues in towns around the Bible Belt, co-running a show, "Loosen the Bible Belt: A Tour For Humanity," with punk rock theologian Jay Backer. Backer’s religious roots open the door for Becker to interact with audiences that might otherwise immediately dismiss her. The aim is to promote diversity, inclusion and tolerance through that great equalizer – laughter.
This Summer, Becker is trying her hand at another avenue to acceptance for LGBTI youth, by organizing the “Summer of Sass,” an exchange program for LGBTI youth from towns where queerness is not accepted, to come to work and live in the diverse city of Provincetown for the summer.
Explains Becker, “I want to bring queer kids here to give them a mental health reprieve,” she says. “Instead of telling them it gets better, we can show them.”
For the upcoming Summer season (and Summer of Sass’ first ever season), Becker has found two LGBTI teens from the South, and has organized with them and their families for them to come and live in the homes of accepting local Provincetown locals, and to have job interviews with LGBTI friendly employers.
To help subsidize the journeys of the teens involved, Summer of Sass has teamed up with Indivisible Outer Cape and a group of 15 individual Provincetown visual artists to create a one of a kind coloring book, entitled “The Resistance: Coloring and Activity Book.” The book’s illustrations interrogate how to safeguard America’s democratic and moral integrity in these Trumpian times. Every penny of profit from book sales will go to helping out the youths involved in Summer of Sass, and luckily for you, the coloring book has a GoFundMe page, so that you can get involved right now, and help make the book’s production a reality.
C’mon, loosen your belt, empty your pockets, sit back and watch America get a little bit better, and a little bit safer, for LGBTI youths.