Phil: Hey, this is Phil aka Corinne.
Alex: And I’m Alex Berg. And you’re listening to… he
Both: The I’m From Driftwood Podcast.
Alex: Today, we hear from Gina and Nick who discuss their experiences being queer and Christian.
Gina: Hi, I’m Gina Graham. I’m from Detroit, Michigan,
Nick: Hi, my name is Nick. I’m from Fort Worth, Texas.
Gina: I came out as transsexual in 1992, I was 29 at the time.
Nick: Growing up in Texas, I was the youngest of four children and we grew up in what people would call the bad part of town.
Gina: I always tell people that transition was my last resort. It was not my first choice. I spent a year examining, could I possibly just be gay? You know, and as I told my therapist, if you can make me gay, I can deal with that. She’s like, Do you know anyone who’s gay? And I’m like, No. She’s like, Time you do.
Nick: I found peace outside of all the negative activity that happened in my city through going to church. And this was a Pentecostal Bible-preaching church. Imagine every day, Sundays, praise and worship, which is the singing, is an hour long. And everyone rushes to the front is clapping their hands, running in circles, doing the helicopter with their blouses and shirts, falling on the floor. And that was such a big, important part of church for me, feeling that I belong to this community that was a safe place for me outside of all the bad things that were happening in my hometown.
Gina: So I met some gay men and it took about five minutes to realize I’m not a gay man. And when I met people that were transsexual, I was like, That’s it. I am female. It was very early in my transition. My parents asked me to go speak to the minister. This is at the church where they still went and was also the church I had grown.
So this is someone I’ve known since I was 14. I agreed. I wanted to prove to them that I was firm enough in my beliefs that they could be challenged. And secondly, I thought if I could get this man to be an ally, if I could get him on my side, he could be a tremendous help with my parents to help them understand.
Nick: But as I grew up, I started to learn more about myself as well. I noticed in middle school I would stare longer at my friends on the football team than any, you know, Britney Spears in a music video, although I liked watching her music videos.
Gina: This is a Southern fundamentalist religion called the Church of Christ. We always say that Church of Christ is a lot like Southern Baptist, just not as liberal. I knew I was in for an uphill battle. I went to the library to start studying up. I bought the Oxford companion to the Bible and I read through there and I highlighted what I wanted to know. And I took my King James Bible and got all my notes together and went to go see the minister.
Nick: I had this teen version of a Bible that talked about different stories of sin. And I remember coming across “My friend is gay and what should I do?” And I remember when I read that short story, they pointed to a scripture in the Bible that said there is no room in Heaven for people like this.
I was a senior about to go to college, another exciting moment for me. But I was on my knees saying, God, change me, change me, change me. And then just something clicked and told me I can’t change.
Gina: When I went in his first comment was, “You know what you’re doing is wrong in the eyes of God.”
And I said, “Actually, no, I think that what I’m doing is perfectly fine in the eyes of God.” I said, “Let me ask you a question.” I said, “Is the Bible the absolute truth word of God? Or is it a story of metaphors?”
And he said, “No, it’s, it is the absolute truth word of God.”
And I said, “So then the Garden of Eden would be the high point of God’s creation. That was his initial untouched creation.”
He said, “Yes.”
And I said, “Then where’s the minister? There’s no minister church in the Garden of Eden.”
And he started to get quiet. And so he goes to Leviticus and he quotes the man shall not lie with another man.
And I said, “Okay, then we – what about shellfish and pork and tattoos and wearing clothes of different fabrics? I don’t see any of these being taught or preached against.
Nick: At that moment, I made a choice that, well, if I can’t be fully committed to this, then I can’t be any… any part of it. I decided to start to walk away from the church. And it happened at the same time that I was going away from Texas to New England, Providence, Rhode Island, to my school Brown.
Sometimes when I’d go home, when I was in college, I would go home back to Texas. And my family was still going to church so I joined them sometimes. And the church was such a big support with helping me set my goals to finish high school, to get into college. They would ask me to come on the stage and give a little speech and update about what I’m doing and help motivate others in the church. And then they would all come around and pray for me. And I would just think in those moments that I was being dishonest, that I was a fraud.
Gina: So then he goes to Deuteronomy where it’s “a man shall not dress as a woman nor a woman dress as a man.” And I said, “Okay, yes, but now could that be a sense of controlling a women?” And he began to get a little flustered in some of these back and forth.
And I said, “When we die and go to heaven, what do we look like? Do we have the body that we had when we were dying and old?”
And he says, “I think you’re oversimplifying it here. It’s just your soul that goes to heaven. There’s no body.”
And I said, “Right, exactly. I’m not changing my soul. So what’s the problem?”
Nick: About my second year of college, I started accepting myself, coming out to myself. And I started sharing that with some of my friends from high school and from home one day when I was back at home in Texas, my second year in college, I told one of our youth group friends from church.
And I was shocked when they had said that, you know, It doesn’t matter to me. He speaks in biblical terms sometimes. He would tell me, like, “You’re perfect for an in God’s eyes. And so you being gay is not being imperfect. It’s being just who you are.” And although I heard that from him and it meant a lot to me, I still had my, you know, rooted teaching that, you know, this is what the Bible says and I need to follow it word for word.
And so even though starting from him, he was accepting, and when I came out to my family, they were also accepting. The church started rumors and came more out to the church. They still celebrated me. They still were like, “Nicholas, we, we love you. And we’re happy for the journey that you’ve been on.” But it was still years after tha, that I started to reconcile those differences.
Gina: And he says, “Well, you’re changing God’s plan for you. God made for you to be a man.”
And I said, “Ah, what about Brother Johnson, who had a heart transplant recently? God meant for him to die at age 45, but rather than get up and preach against that, you were praising God for allowing a surgeon to have the skills to give him more life. That flies directly in your argument of playing God.”
And he says, “I think you’re still… you’re just trying to find an argument around what you know is wrong.”
And I said, “Not at all, we’re supposed to be New Testament Christians. So Leviticus, Deuteronomy, all this stuff is irrelevant. Jesus fulfilled that. So show me in the New Testament, tell me why I’m wrong.”
And he says, “Well, I can’t tell you why it’s wrong. I just know that it is.”
And I said, “Well, that’s your personal opinion and you’re entitled to that. But your job is to preach what’s in the book, so if you can’t show me in the book where this is wrong, then you can’t get up in that pulpit and preach that it is?”
Phil: Gina. I was so impressed how she came out the gate with like, All right, let’s debate this. Like when she and the minister were talking, she showed up ready for a debate. I was like, Go Gina. I was so impressed. She was like, Bring it on. Like, I have some questions. And at times you can see that the minister was a little bit, you know, on the back foot sort of like I can’t really answer that and I have to rely on, well, that’s not how it works or, or, you know, that’s not, I think you’re misinterpreting, you know, the Bible. I thought that that was incredible.
Alex: Yeah. I mean, I just think about how that takes such a strong sense of self and a kind of fortitude to know that you are right, especially in the face of a religious institution. If you think about it, somebody who’s a pastor is in a position of power in your community.
So it is just very, as you said, impressive that she was able to really hold her ground in that way. I’m not sure when I came out, I’m not sure that early on in that process for me, that I would have been able to do something like that. Especially with someone who was perceived as a community leader
Nick: After graduation, I got my first job in New York and I moved here to New York city which was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I had a great community of friends.
One night, I was with some of my closest friends. We’re celebrating, you know, being here in New York. We’re growing in our careers. Everything’s looking really good for us. And we go out to our usual bar that we ended up at called Therapy. What they usually do is they play these slow songs, but have an upbeat temple to it.
And all of us were like fist pumping in our heads when that beat dropped and like, yeah. And then, for one moment, I noticed myself when I’m pumping my hands up and down, my fist turns into an open hand and I just stand still for a moment. And I’m reminded of a song back when I was a child at church and I started singing.
That song goes, “Holy, Holy are you Lord God almighty?” After that moment, I snap out of it and I just rejoined my friends and we continue the night out. And then on my cab ride home, I think to myself, like, What was that? What… what happened?
Later on, when I thought about it, I just thought that this is how I felt at church when I would go as a kid and I was surrounded by all these people and in the place that I felt safe outside of my home. That place Therapy was my new home and my new family. And that was where I found that my peace.
Alex: I was just struck by the degree to which Nick internalized homophobia as a result of his religious upbringing. And that even though he was able to find affirming people around him, that it really takes so much work to change the self-talk that is so imprinted onto us when you have that kind of upbringing.
Phil: So true. So true. What I love also about the story is the idea of community, you know? So we see him sort of leaning on community in these various ways. And I love the idea that, like, he has these two beautiful communities that are these places, these sort of a home for him. And I think it must have been so hard for him to be wondering how he can make peace with these two communities, how he can have them exist side by side and not be feel you have to give… he had to give one of them up.
Alex: I completely agree with you. And I relate to the way in both of these stories, how these folks were eventually affirmed in their religious identities. I’m someone who comes from a mixed faith background. My mom’s family is Catholic. My dad’s family is Jewish and I identify more as Jewish. And I would say that I have found a really strong queer Jewish community and I feel like a lot of the Jewish values that I have really align with values around autonomy and equality that I find in queer spaces. And so the thing that resonated the most for me was just actually finding affirmation in having a faith background and, like, also as a queer person, reclaiming your identity in a religion.
Phil: You know, for me, what I – I grew up also with a religious background and I was not, I don’t feel like I was able to sort of reconcile, like, being queer and also being religious and I kind of backed away from the church.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen friends who have been part of, like, interfaith religions that made me feel like, Wow, this is so interesting. I’ve never seen… been to a place where I could be exactly who I am and also be in this place of worship and still steeped in religion in some way. It’s kind of comforting to see that, those two things sort of put together.
Alex: That they can… that they can indeed go together.
Phil: Can you imagine that?
Alex: Well, we are so excited to continue delving into this topic with our guest. Please welcome to I’m From Driftwood drag superstar, Dida Ritz as.
As things go on zoom…you are muted.
Phil: We gotta get you unmuted.
Nick: Right here.
Alex: There we go.
Dida: There I am.
Alex: Welcome! Thanks you so much for joining us. How are you doing these days?
Dida: Oh my God. Well, when quarantine hit, yeah, I was, like, forced to have to learn how to do some things that I never, never really, never had to do. And one of them was like mastering the art of social media. So I’m trying to, like, learn how to do that with,, like making content and like, I didn’t know how to edit videos, but now I do. I know how to edit. Like I added a lot of my own videos and, you know, I really am just, you know, I’m selling 8x10s right now, you know, just if anybody wants, you know, hit me up and DM me.
You know, things like that, but I’m just trying to, like, you know, really hustle. I mean, you ask anybody who knows me, they know I hustle. But I really had to like force myself to, like, just, like, really do it with no complaining, you know? ‘Cause sometimes we, like, complain we have to do it. And we are like, This is so unfair. But I had to like tell myself, like, everyone in the world is feeling this right now. So there’s no excuse for now. Like, just hustle. Like, this is what you’ve been blessed to do. Hustle.
Phil: Well, I, for one, accept and love your hustle and love that your hustle didn’t involve sourdough like everybody else. I’m like, please, can people stop making sourdough? Like no one wants that much sourdough.
Dida: Trust me. But that’s another podcast. That was another conversation to talk about.
Phil: Is it though? Oh my God.
Did: I’m in, honey.
Phil: We need to back off of that. So I hear that you recently had a birthday.
Dida: I did, I did. My birthday was back in December 20th.
Phil: Oh, fantastic.
Did: I turned 35 years old. Holler.
Alex: A capricorn. A capricorn, right?
Phil: And Capricorns are the best.
Dida: A Sagittarius Capricorn.
Alex: That’s right on the… yes.
Dida: Yeah. Although I accept… I accept both sides, but I think I have more of that Sagittarius fire in me than the Capricorn. It’s a Capricorn I’m trying to learn to be. That’s the adult.
Phil: I will help you with that. I am a Capricorn and I want to claim you for us. I want to claim you for us. We’re taking you. We’re taking you. We want you here.
Dida: But I’m trying to get into my adulthood. That’s Sagittarius shit. That’s a dangerous bitch. Sorry.
Alex: You’re not wrong.
Phil: How did you celebrate your birthday during the pandemic?
Dida: Four of my friends, all, like we just celebrated at my boyfriend’s house and we just drank and we had a really good time and I listened to records. And so I really just tried to relax and enjoy. But I was pretty – but I do pretty good on my birthdays. I spoiled myself pretty well. So this was like, I forced myself. I made all my favorite foods on the day of my birthday at my boyfriend’s house. I made, like, fried chicken and, like, barbecue wings and home, like Southern-baked macaroni and cheese.
And then my boyfriend’s a vegan, so I had to make sure that he’s not, you know, forget about him. So I’d make gorgeous lettuce wraps and vegan pasta. And we have banana bread and all that stuff. So that’s nice.
Alex: I feel like it’s still super important to me. Time’s special, even though it can feel like Groundhog Day. So just I’m completely with you on like, let’s keep the celebrating going when we can.
So for our listeners who may be unfamiliar somehow, tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do.
Dida: So my stage name is Dida Ritz, and I was from – I was on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 4. Top five finalists. I got very close to winning. And I just…I like to think that I’m pretty much a staple in my community, in my industry. I’ve worked with a lot of really top known drag queens, everyone from Shay Coolay to Violet, Chachki to Detox to… I just had Brooklyn Heights at my birthday. Kevin Aviano wished me happy birthday and did… at my digital birthday show. So I’m very well networked in the drag scene and I’ve been doing drag for almost 20 years.
So drag is just something that kind of like fell into my lap because I went to fashion school and I can find a model to, like, model any of my clothing. So for me it was like, okay, well I can just wear the clothes and dress myself in drag, and then I can take the pictures and that would be fine. Like at least I don’t have to pay a model. I don’t have to worry about that. But then I realized that I looked like in drag and I was like, Ooh. And then when I had my friend professionally do my makeup, I remember that was like the first time when I like saw my face professionally down by – he worked at Mac at the time and so he is a fierce makeup artist. And he did my makeup and Rogers was like, Oh my God. Like, like every drag queen has that moment where they get their makeup professionally done for the first time. And you just have that moment of like, Oh my God. Like, wow.
Phil: Stunning. I love that. That’s such a great story. It’s such a good story. You know, I loved you on season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race, your lip sync in front of Natalie Cole is arguably one of the best lip syncs in the show is herstory.
Dida: Thank you.
Phil: I have to know. How does it feel all of these years later to still be recognized for that?
Dida: It feels good because, you know, you know, part of the, I think, I don’t think a lot of people see with when you’re on RuPaul’s Drag Race, is that like, it’s different for everyone.
So the experience is different for everyone, you know, going into a situation where I had never had any experience being on TV or like really… like I had done a little news spots, but I had never been, like, on, like, television every week as a character to some form that was coming into people’s lives. You know what I mean?
Like I think the thing that I loved the most was that, like, people saw in that lip sync that I was a performer. Because that was the biggest thing I was worried about was that I was like, I don’t know how to, like, portray myself, like, as a character on television, because I’m just me. So like, you know, I don’t really have like this character I think about jumping into. So I just know how to like start talking and then maybe people fall in.
But I love that above a fight or above anything, like, they see, Oh, I love that lip sync. I love that lip sync. It made me happy. It brought me out of the dark times. It’s this very… it touches me every time. It keeps me humble and it even shocks me cause they let you know how big the world is, you know?
Like I assume, like, okay, like there’s so many times where I assume people are not going to know who I am. Especially, like, as every season comes out, I’m like, okay, another season comes out. No one’s going to know who I am, but then the following gets bigger. I still, I still get more followers. I, you know, even when I have a mask on walking around, people will be like, Hi Dida, like, you know, at the grocery store, It’s, you know, it’s like, Oh, okay.
Like, you know, it’s interesting. It’s so interesting. This… this world of, like, attention and fame, because for me, this is just my job. So the whole fame thing is something I’m still to this day getting used to, and that’s part of it with the lip sync, you know, that’s how people really identify me. So it’s a cultural thing to some people when they hear that song, they automatically think of the lipstick or the drag queen who did it with the Bob, you know, it’s so humbling.
Alex: It sounds like it’s just a real reminder, every time you would have one of those interactions of just how far reaching the impact of RuPaul’s Drag Race has been.
Dida: Yeah. It’s like, once again, it’s just very humbling because it is, it’s a growth every year. Like I said, for me, it becomes like a newer learning experience.
You know, right when I’m like, I’m from season four, I’m sitting in my legacy. I’m good. You know, a whole, like, the whole 1,500 people pop out of nowhere started following you. And you’re like, and then they’re, like, obsessed with you. They’re commenting on everything. And they’re just discovering the show or, you know, they, you know, or they hadn’t maybe watched my season and then they went back and binge watched my, you know, binge watch drag race and happened to fall into my season. So it’s, yeah, it’s really humbling. It really is. And it feels great to be a part of it. So I’m a part of history. That’s the best. That’s amazing. That’s amazing part of gay history that will be written in a book somewhere.
Alex: Yeah. Well, I’m sure that you get this question all the time, but if you were asked, would you do a season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars?
Dida: Even in my own, like, egotistical way of, like, I want to be on all stars, like, hello, it’s me, I have to even remember, like, I’m out here working with countless amounts of queens now. So I have to always be cued myself relevant and doing things and really showing my hustle and my grind and my work ethic and all that, because there’s was a bunch of girls who want not want that opportunity. So yeah, I would love to do it. And I truly believe when the time is right, it will happen. That’s something I’ve just been telling myself lately, is that when the time is right, it will happen. So…
Phil: I want to tie you into the conversation we were having earlier, because we were talking today about a queer Christian experience. And I understand you’re the son of a pastor. Is that right?
Dida: I am. I am the son of a pastor. I came out to my mom and dad when I was 16 years old. I told my mom when she picked me up after work one night and she was driving home and I just basically told her I was gay and it was very, I think, tough for her to handle.
But I also think she kind of knew, like, it was like kind of that thing of, like, it’s that bad news you don’t want. You know, but it’s that bad news that, like, you need to get in order to like, deal with it, you know? So I could already tell it was hard for her to deal with and then I remember I woke up that next day. ‘Cause I think it was a Friday I told my mom and then I woke up the next day and I had to be to work at like 7:00 AM. And my dad and I had a whole full discussion at the table in the kitchen. It was very, like, kind of dramatic and very bad. ‘Cause my dad would just did not know how to handle this.
Specifically, ;ike I don’t think people understand how like, just like drag, there’s a whole industry of churches and there’s an industry of the church itself. And there are pastors and first ladies and people who are affiliated with the gospel world. So my father was kind of one of those people, he knows a lot of pastors and bishops and he has, you know, he just knows all those people. So I think for him, that’s what he immediately thought was. I think he thought what they were going to think.
Alex: Then you go on to be very public about your life and very high profile and embracing LGBTQ culture on TV. So did you have to have another conversation with your parents about drag? When did that come up?
Dida: So I’d had to have a con – I had a conversation about drag with my parents like maybe six months before I was going on drag race. And I said, I’ve been performing and I have really gained a following and then kind of like a thing about it. And I think that this is what I really want to do. And I’ve always, you know, I was always in dance numbers and all of a sudden I said, I can incorporate everything. I was like, you know, I went to fashion school so I already know how sew. Like, okay. And I think when I got on my mother, she – it was like a moment where she was like, okay, I see how serious now you take it, you know/
Phil: How did your dad deal with you being on the show?
Dida: It took a lot of time for him to deal with it. Now he’s like completely fine and comfortable with it, but my mom said she would just catch him sometimes just watching episodes on the reruns. Like, she would just literally come into like his mancave and then he would be literally watching Drag Race, or he’d even be watching like another season of Drag Race. So she’s, you know, the fact that he’s been watching otherseasons makes me even more happy than him watching my season, because then unless we know he’s really interested, so he’s.. he enjoys it. And I think he likes it. People always say to him like, Oh my God, I’m a fan of your son. Or I think for my father, he is more, it’s been more of like that with him. I think that my dad also, and what I’ve had to learn about my father is that he grew up extremely poor. He grew up in a really working class family with a lot of brothers and sisters and for him, he always was working to, you know, protect and take care of his family. This is all still new to him. You know, the idea of, you know, me being, I was on TV and all that is still new to him. And the fact that like, if I was to get on an All Stars, I would go back on TV. And I think it’s all still new to him.
You know, I still remember when I was young and we went to go see The Nutty Professor and I’ll never forget my dad said “This the first time I’ve ever gone to a movie theater.” He’s like, I”’ve never been to a movie theater before.” And I was like, I was a kid who was shocked about that because I was a kid going to a movie theater with my dad and here he is, this is his first time ever being in a movie theater. So, you know, my father’s just, you know, he sits at home and watches National Geographic. That’s his thing, you know, he’s…
Phil: Yeah. I also am a national geographic lover. So I’m not mad at your dad.
Dida: Yeah, my dad’s like super like chill.
Phil: He sounds like a great guy. What is the biggest misconception about being a pastor’s son?
Dida: Oh, like, well, it depends on if you’re in the church or you’re out the church. You know, if you’re in the church, I think that, yeah, you just spoiled. You get away with anything if you’re in the church. If you’re outside the church, I think that it could be more of like, I dunno, like when I tell people how my dad was a… was a pastor when I was a kid, it wasn’t really met with any weirdness. It was just met as like, “Oh, you’re super religious.” And I remember telling people like, well, I’m not religious but my dad is. Like, you know, I mean, like I remember making that very clear that like, I have to just comply with this because I’m under the age of 18, but I’m not… I don’t have necessarily every belief that everyone has within the church. So… but I do have some sense of faith in me, you know, that I do keep with me, but it’s not what maybe what he has.
Phil: G Yeah. How does your family church community feel about what you do?
Dida: There’s I think there’s maybe, yeah, a little bit of judgment behind my back, but I think that is something that could be said about when you get national exposure about being an artist. I think that if, like, you hear a lot of families talk about like, when people want to be singers or they want to be designers or they want to be artists and it would be like something they say, Oh, I’m going to reach the stars I’m going to be doing… you know, I wanna be… I wanna be the lead makeup artists to this or da-da-da-da.
I think it’s something to be said when you make it on such a national exposure where people are coming up to your family members and telling them like, Oh my God, I know you, or You’re good on TV. I think it changes people’s minds a little bit about you as an artist, which is why so many people who are artists strive to get on TV or strive to get really, like, to a certain, I guess, a massive following with their social media, because that says a lot, it proves a lot of people wrong. And it also proved it, for me, I think it showed my parents that, Okay, like, he is shooting for the stars with this. He isn’t just doing this and just fumble around with it. He’s shooting for the stars.
So I was… I was very lucky and I think that the church respected that, that I put my neck out there for that, you know, like I really put myself out there, but I’m sure that there was maybe met with some judgment. You know, churches are very good with that, you know? No Kiki to your face, but then when you turn around, they have a lot to say, you know, that’s… that’s the shade of the church sometimes.
Phil: So true.
Alex: Well, do you have any advice for someone who comes from a religious background or religious family about how folks can come out to them or even talk about LGBTQ issues with them?
Dida: I would say just be patient, especially if your family actually like, doesn’t have a problem with it. It’s just maybe that, like, it’s uncomfortable for them or whatever, but they, like, are trying. Like, notice if they’re trying. You know, also understand that there’s family members that you can’t change their minds. So there’s going to be family members that are, like, completely against it. And there’s just nothing that you can do about that. Like, that’s just what it is. But I think that if you have family members who are really, like, trying and, and they… they really don’t want to be homophobic. They actually want to be, like, supporting. They just don’t know what to do or say ‘cause it’s all these things going their brain.
I’m a very confrontational type of person, so I truly believe in like, let’s have a conversation, you know? So when I remember when it was time to actually talk to my mom and dad about me being gay, it was like, Nope, let’s talk, let’s have this conversation, you know.
Phil: Holding their feet to the fire. You’re like, we’re going to talk about this. I’ve got to drag you into this conversation.
Dida: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Phil: Nothing wrong with that. You know, I want to ask you, in what ways have you seen some churches change? In what ways do you think they need to change further?
Dida: I have seen churches change. I mean, it’s a slow change, but I think that what they could do is it’d be nice even in churches that want to be more open to even have some type of, not necessarily events or like, you know, a party, but specifically like in Black churches, it’d be nice if they almost opened the idea to having like, I don’t want to say a club, but, you know, like a program where it’s almost like a place where young, Black gay kids could go in the church to actually speak about those issues and kind of have like full circle moments and, like, even church, like, you know, if pastors could like come in and have these conversations, you know, like, I dunno. Those are things I feel like churches I want to start doing more.
But I feel like it’s happening. It’s just happening really slow. Like, you know, ‘cause there’s not anything off the top of my head, I can’t really, you say that I’ve really seen change. I feel that if anything, I’ve just seen a lot of like, it’s a divide, you know, there are churches that people can go to and if you’re gay or whatever, it’s like, it’s very obvious that it’s like that, compared to like, there’s these like hardcore evangelicals, you know?
And so to me it’s still a really strong divide, but I’ve… I’ve seen it narrow a little bit, but I think that it hasn’t, you know, we haven’t learned to come together. And I think that that’s the one thing that needs to happen. And specifically within Black churches, I really feel that Black churches need to start talking about homosexuality within the family and within the church itself, because it is a conversation that I feel that it gets brushed aside way too much.
Alex: Have you encountered any other drag queens who have parents who are religious leaders or even pastors? I would imagine that you could relate to someone on a really, just a very deep level, if they’ve gone through the same experience as you in that way.
Dida: Yeah. I mean, Shay Coolay, I mean, that’s how me and her really, like, connected the first time. She comes from a very religious background And that was like one of the first things we talked about with, like, being Black and being gay and like having these hyper feminine qualities about us. Yeah. I mean, it’s a conversation that I have often with a lot of drag queens who come from religious backgrounds who were altar boys were, you know, like, we’re in the church every Sunday, every Wednesday, every, you know, every Saturday.
So it’s more common than people think. And it’s more common, honestly, within, I think, the gay community there’s a lot of us come from a religious background of some sort, you know, it’s… it seems to be a common conversation that I always have with people.
Alex: How would you describe your relationship with your faith and the church today?
Dida: I don’t go to church. To me, it is a little bit of a PTSD moment for me to go to church because I felt that when I was young, I was kind of like, the church made me feel like I had to, like, I was shunned and it was not allowed in there. So I don’t go to church often or ever, but I sometimes when I’m home and if I’m… if I’m in the mood and when my parents do go to church, I… we’ll go to church with them to make them happy. You know, it’s back and forth. And I, and it took me a long time to even speak that honest about it just simply because coming from the church and being a child of a pastor, I feel that God is watching me and if I say something wrong, I’m going to hell. I do think those things and I do have that in my brain sometimes. And I have to understand that, like, it’s okay to, like, have your own like belief and your own faith and not necessarily… it doesn’t have to be so dark. You know, I haven’t hurt anybody, I haven’t harmed anyone. I haven’t killed anyone. So I’m not going to hell. Like, you know what I mean?
I know that my spirit will be going to a paradise, you know? So, and that’s how I think about it even more. A paradise, you know? I’m a good person. So I know that when I leave this earth, I’m going to a much more happier place. I won’t be burning in anyone’s hell, you know? Right, no fire
Phil: Right, no fire and brimstone for you. Not at all.
Dida: Absolutely not. I haven’t done anything in that… that harsh for my life at all to do that. And if I get, but if I, if I go to hell for stealing that Snicker bar, well then damn, that was a hell of a snicker bar, honey.
Phil: And I hope you enjoy it!
Dida: Right? Like, my goodness
Nick: Now on Sunday mornings, I might not be at church, but I’m cleaning my house, playing my Christian music on blast. And really worshiping one-on-one. I can have my fun and community in Hell’s Kitchen at Therapy, and the same religious experience I’ve had in Texas at the church, now I have it at home with my radio in my broomstick. For me, my religious life is as much as part of my identity as my queer life. And so there’s a really great peace that you have with being able to reconcile and accept all of your identity for who you are. It’s really that one-on-one journey that you have.
Gina: He got up and he gave a lesson on a Sunday preaching against the evils of this, as my parents and my sister and my aunt sat in the audience and listened. It was illuminating because I felt he wanted me to be repentant when I came in, I guess that sense of asking for forgiveness and all of this, And I, and actually I was more defiant. You can back up anything you want to believe in the Bible. You can find a verse to do that. If you choose to believe in slavery, you can find a verse to back it up. If you believe in misogyny, you can find a verse to back it up. If you choose to believe that God is… is all about revenge and fire and brimstone and damnation and all this it’s there, as is the God is all about love and forgiveness. Religion is too often used as this hammer against the LGBTQ community. And I want people to know that that’s not what the book actually says. It just breaks my heart to see so many people in the community have all this internalized shame because of what they feel the Bible is saying. And it’s just not true.
Within a year or two that minister left a new minister came in complete opposite. He was completely on board with my being transsexual, with my transition and helped my parents through it. His first words to me were, Hey girl, come on in here. And I was like, wow. Okay. And we talked same way that I talked to him with the first minister and he said, You know, there are just some things that are best left to God. And it’s our, not our job to judge. And he told my parents, This is not a sin. Welcome your daughter. This is not a sin. That right there was all I ever wanted.
Alex: So where can folks find you if they want to see your work online and get in touch?
Dida: Yeah, on Instagram, I’m @didaswag on Instagram, @therealdidaswag which is my Twitter handle. And then Dida… facebook.com/didaritz. I’ve been doing my Detailz show on Twitch.TV/detailzthedragshow. And I have my show I do usually on IMHO channel on YouTube, Detailz with Dida Ritz, and it’s usually where I break down pop culture. I talk about Drag Race. I get to talk about all types of different things. I’m selling by 8x10s, darling, so DM me or email me if you’re interested in those things, but yeah, just really trying to use every bit of outlet I can and talent I have. I’m very… I’ve been very, very busy and I’ve been very blessed that I’ve been busy work – I’ve been able to stay working and doing digital shows because I know that it’s not like that for every drag queen, you know, just shout out to all the drag queens out there who are really like sticking to their pride and want to do drag right now, don’t want to have to go get another job, you know? Shout out to any artists right now who was really just like sticking to their goal and their gift, you know? So…
Phil: So you were such a pleasure.
Dida: Oh, thank you.
Alex: It was so awesome getting to talk to you.
Phil: Loved it.
Dida: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Phil: The I’m From Driftwood Podcast is hosted by Phil aka Corinne
Alex: And Alex Berg, and is produced by Andy Egan-Thorpe.
Phil: It’s recorded as a program of I’m From Driftwood, a worldwide nonprofit LGBTQAI+ story archive.
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