1. Hello Cassidy and welcome to Kick Acts. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thanks Kickacts! I’d like to start off by saying “Thank You” for selecting me to interview. I am really honored that you’re interested in my life and my work. My given name is Jeremy Turner, but many of my friends call me “Cass”. I live everyday as a man, but on the weekends I transform into Cassidy Fellows-Sommers. During the week, I am an HIV Prevention Specialist for a HIV specialty clinic and contract with AIDS Resource Group of Evansville to execute a CDC HIV intervention in Evansville, IN. When I am not busy with work or drag, I enjoy playing the piano, watching movies, hanging out with friends Etc.
2. Being a cross dresser and gay is obviously an “alternative lifestyle” by some of society’s standards. Does your family know about it and if so, do they approve/ disapprove and how important is that to you?
The art of female impersonation is definitely something you’d think twice about before consulting grandma on which pair of heels matches your dance costume. I was not blessed with a progressive family, so the “coming out” process has definitely been a challenge over the years. At this point, everyone who I am going to tell in my family already knows (and that would be everyone BUT my grandparents and an uncle.) My mother and cousins know about my drag performances, but without being a part of the gay community or having a good understanding of the purpose drag serves in gay nightlife, it is difficult to discuss in detail with them. My mother prefers the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on the issue.
Regarding the issues importance, their opinions hold little bearing on how I run my life. I had a rough patch with my family when I “came out” and was separated from them for a short time. Since then, I have learned to be very self sufficient and their opinions don’t hold the clout they used to.
3. Why all the fuss over Judy Garland, Cher, and Liza? They seem to be the poster children for the gay movement. Why is that?
When I read this question, I immediately compared it to other questions like “Why is the sky blue?” or “How have bumble bees managed to fly?” LOL I can’t put my finger on just one identifier that causes some performers (Cher, Judy, Liza, Bette, Barbara Etc.) to become gay icons, but I do have some ideas.
I think the most likely reason these entertainers are so highly treasured by the gay community is that many of them sympathized with gays and lesbians before it was the “in” thing to do. These ladies are now either dead, or well into their sixties. It was more of a statement for someone to publicly support gays and lesbians when they were young and at the peak of their popularity. We as gay people are not quick to forget that.
I also think that gay people can identify with someone who has a past. Many gay icons have a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, suicide attempts and other personal tragedies, and those are the very same issues that plague our culture at higher rates than the heterosexual communities.
Also, the personalities of these women are very over-the-top and easy to impersonate in drag. (Which may ultimately be the biggest contributor to their gay following LOL)
4. Do you perform regularly in Drag? If so, where can we see you performing at?
I do perform weekly as I am able. I have been doing drag since November 2003 at Someplace Else Bar and Nightclub @ 930 Main St. Evansville, IN 47708. In the past I have traveled to bars and nightclubs around the region and out west, however my schedule does not really accommodate that as well as it used to. I began as a comedy performer and doing Cass Elliot impersonation. As the years have passed my drag has changed into what I have become now. I perform a combination of classic drag numbers and hits from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s primarily. All the local performers have at least some sort of “niche” they find and we are all quite different. I am known as “Evansville’s Glamazon Goddess” because of my stature (6’9 in heels and well over 300lbs,) my deep voice, and my quick wit on the mic. Being the show hostess is definitely my forte.
5. You work for the AIDS Resource Group of Evansville. Tell us about that and the work you do.
Indeed I do! I actually work for two agencies, and ARG of Evansville is one of them. In 2004 I accepted a position with AIDS Resource Group of Evansville serving as the Youth Education Initiative Program Coordinator. In this position, I was charged with bringing HIV/STD prevention education to youth in the southern eleven counties of Indiana one classroom at a time. Until December of last year I was dedicated to that project solely. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts and changes in state funding options; my program funding was not renewed by the state department of health.
Fortunately, there is an HIV specialty clinic based in Henderson, KY (right across a bridge from Evansville) that was seeking someone to perform in a very similar capacity. I was offered employment with them and started with the HIV specialty clinic on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2008.
I enjoy every day that I am able to come to work and make a difference in someone’s life. 50% of sexually active high school students will statistically contract an STD. I do my best to keep that number as low as possible. I still do work for ARG as well, so I am keeping very busy.
6. What do you think of Perez Hilton and do you think he is “the spokesman” for the gay community?
I think that Perez is awfully entertaining, but I personally don’t consider him the spokesman for our community. I believe that he is viewed that way by the general public though. I chalk that up to the fact that he represents just about every gay stereotype out there.
I just saw MILK (highly suggested btw) for the first time this weekend and was commenting on the fact we had no real spokesperson. If I had to pick, it would definitely be Ellen hands down. In my opinion, Perez’s website is the gay equivalent of the National Enquirer, more than slightly ridiculous.
7. Do you think his recent “rant” in the media helped out or hurt the gay community?
Most definitely hurt. I think he can become downright militant at times, and that does not fit into my ideology for responding to people who disagree with me or my lifestyle.
8. How do you feel about Miss California’s answer to his question?
I’d like to begin by saying that it saddens me to know so many people across the county feel the very same way that she does. I am not sure why we are dealing with the same issues I saw being tackled by our community in MILK which took place in the 70’s. In 30 years time, we are still not equal, and many Americans not only are ok with it, they adamantly support the discrimination of gays and lesbians.
However, that being said, I support her courage to stand up for what she believes in. In the same way I believe gays should legally be afforded the same rights and privileges as every other person in the country, she is allowed to not only believe differently, but vocalize her beliefs without receiving the kind of backlash she did from Perez and the press. This is America and we not only believe that “all men are created equal” but that every individual has a right to “freedom of speech” and “freedom of religion.”
9. How long does it take you to get “into” character? And do high heels hurt your feet too?
It is a process. Without actually DOING drag, it is impossible to realize everything that goes into it. The whole package takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete. It’s very intensive, beginning with gluing eyebrows down, applying huge quantities of thick foundation and cotey powder, drawing on exaggerated eyes and vibrant eye make-up, fake eyelashes, cheek contouring, four different types of girdles, duct tape, tights, foam hip and butt pads and 3-5 pairs of pantyhose.
Regarding the shoes and foot pain, I said earlier that I am a big guy and if I have learned one thing over the years it is that the human body is not meant to walk in heels, especially not mine. My heels are generally 3-4 inches high and it is damn near crippling to wear them all night. (I wear a women’s size 15 or 16 depending, in case you were wondering.)
10. Just curious. Why do gay men who do not enjoy the sexual company of women dress like them then?
I cannot answer this question for everyone. There are many reasons people do drag. For me, I enjoy entertaining people and drag is completely non-sexual. For others, they may identify as transgendered and drag is an outlet for them to feel like a lady. Personally, I very much enjoy being a man, and have never been inclined to seek gender reassignment.
Drag plays a HUGE role in the gay nightlife across the country, in some places more than others. Evansville is a medium sized community and there are few places for gays and lesbians to go where they are comfortable being openly coupled in public. Gay bars are a meeting place for a lot of people and if you’re not much on crowded dance floors, its more than likely you’ll spend most of your evening watching the drag shows.
I suggest you seek out a drag show on a Saturday night and find out for yourself what actually happens. There are many straight people who come regularly to be entertained by drag queens and to take advantage of the lower drink prices at gay bars. (I find our drinks quite reasonably priced.)
Bonus question and its a toughie.
Why is it that the general gay community cannot just accept the fact that some people will never approve of their life style so when the straight community voices that, the gay community tends to show hostility. For example, Perez Hilton remarking that Miss California was a “stupid bitch” for her stating her beliefs since they didn’t line up with what he wanted her to say? Would you address that?
(I am basing this response with the idea that Miss California made her comments out of religious conviction. Otherwise, I am less tolerant of those who object to my lifestyle out of prejudice and ignorance.)
This is a tough question, and I have given it a great deal of thought. As I said earlier, Perez’s response was unwarranted and embarrassing.
In the conflict, you have two groups of people dealing in abstracts. The belief and faith in understanding of God’s will and scripture on one end, and on the other the idea that one man/woman can share a love between a partner of the same sex that is just as passionate as those who are married in the heterosexual community, and that this lifestyle is not a choice.
If God could descend from heaven and smite every gay and lesbian couple living in sin, it would be a very clear sign that, in fact, there was a God. The same God that dictated the gospels be recorded and that God was extremely upset and disgusted with the deviant behaviors of mankind. Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen, so it leaves an ideology that people believe in by faith alone.
Adversely, I believe homosexuality is not a choice. I have been attracted to the same sex since I was a child. I suffered no sexual abuse and had quite a regular childhood. I believe that I was born this way and wonder why people think we would choose a lifestyle that is looked down upon by such a large portion of society. I believe gays should be allowed to marry and that a love shared between the same sex is just as real and the union just as blessed as any other marriage. However, my belief is just as abstract as those who support the condemnation of gays in scripture. If scientists could identify the reason, without a doubt, that people are attracted to the same sex, and if the reason was indeed natural and no force could change that attraction, my views would be authenticated. That is unlikely to happen, and if it did, I doubt it would have much impact on society.
After all of this typing, I return to the idea of beliefs in the abstract. Who would win in a fight between Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? Who knows, but I can tell you that I have faith in America and I believe that ultimately, someday, the people will move past the discrimination of gays and lesbians. Someday we will have a solid place in American culture where were can be free to love openly and share all of our wonderful gifts without discrimination.
We always give everyone a chance to say what ever they feel. The Sky is the limit!! So go ahead Cassidy, and “SHOUT IT OUT LOUD”!!
Know your status. HIV is a disease that has touched many members of communities both big and small. Know that HIV is not a gay disease-it affects and infects those from all walks of life. The only way to know your status is to get tested. Have fun and play safe!