Courtesy of Daniel Kallman
Daniel Kallman is set to perform as Sister Mary Ashtray at a drag event in Pulaski County next month.
A military town in central Missouri is in the grip of drag show drama. A "drag-a-palooza
" event has been planned for the small town of St. Robert on June 25, during Pulaski County Pride. But opponents have voiced concerns about the drag show's location (a community center) and whether the show's organizers improperly listed
a local downtown business association in an online advertisement.
It was all fairly petty until the weekend, when longtime town Alderman Allan Johannsen jumped into the fray, letting loose a spray of shameless ignorance and bigotry across several Facebook comment threads.
"Why don't you guys act right and find a nice woman instead of a person of the same sex," Johannsen wrote Saturday on Facebook in reply to a sprawling thread posted by the publisher of Pulaski County Daily News
, Darrell Maurina.
A Navy veteran, Johannsen's other recent comments on the subject veered from religious anguish ("Jesus has already been weeping") to claims that "sick perverted queers" make him nauseous. Some of his remarks have since been deleted, but a local blogger managed to capture screenshots
of the nastiness.
"I think queers need to stop trying to recruit more perverts this sick mental illness is not any better than child molesters," Johannsen wrote. "The desire of someone wanting someone of the same sex and wanting to have sex with a child is a sick perversion. These people need some serious mental health treatment."
(We reached out to Johannsen through both Facebook and the City of St. Robert, but had not heard back as of press time.)
On Wednesday night, Maurina's Pulaski County Daily News
(which functions primarily as a Facebook page
that St. Robert City Attorney Tyce Smith has advised the town's mayor that Johannsen's comments did not violate the town's social media policy.
“The facts as I understand them are that Mr. Johannsen did not access social media with city provided resources. Mr. Johannsen provided a personal opinion outside of his role as a member of the St. Robert Board of Aldermen,” Smith wrote in a letter to the mayor
Smith's letter also referenced legal advice he'd provided during a closed city council session on May 3. During the session, he'd advised that the town — which controls the community center — would risk violating its own laws if it walked away from its signed contract with the drag show. (The contract to book the community center was signed in January.)
Smith summed up the town's position thusly:
“The city is fulfilling its contractual obligation relative to the utilization of the Community Center for the show called ‘drag-a-palooza. To do otherwise would be discriminatory under the current ordinance for general public usage of the Community Center. The dissatisfaction of critics of the sexual orientation with that usage cannot and should not influence the city.”
St. Robert Alderman Allan Johannsen.
Johannsen's comments have inflamed already simmering tensions between the area's conservative residents and the burgeoning LGBT community. In 2014, Maurina, the Pulaski County Daily News
publisher, told Riverfront Times
that he would not report on Fort Leonard Wood's first-ever LGBTQ Pride event
. He cited his religious opposition to homosexuality and said such coverage would only anger his conservative readership.
In fact, Maurina has now been accused
of "spearheading" the effort to shut down the upcoming drag event. In response, Maurina tells Riverfront Times
that he's not opposed to the event itself, only its location in the St. Robert Community Center.
And go figure: It all has to do with bathrooms. Maurina says he's worried that youth sports players who use the community center's bathroom will wander into the drag show, which opens its doors at 6 p.m.
"Do I think people from that event are going to wander around and do things to kids? No," Maurina says. "Most gays aren’t child molesters; most straights aren’t child molesters. That’s an irrelevant issue. What’s a relevant issue is you have an event that cards people, that requires people to be eighteen to attend, that shares bathrooms with youth sports."
Maurina is no fan of the drag event. Still, the publisher distanced himself from Johannsen's offensive rhetoric.
"Alderman Johannsen used words I would not have used," he says, adding that Johannsen's remarks are reflective of a certain kind of military mindset, a bluntness that's difficult for outsiders to understand or appreciate.
"If the voters had problems with Allan's comments, he wouldn’t be in office since the year 2000. We have elected officials in this community that make Allan Johannsen's comments look very mild by comparison."
Not everyone agrees with that. Daniel Kallman, a drag performer and firefighter with the Waynesville Rural Fire Protection District, believes the area is far more accepting than Maurina gives it credit for.
"I believe that the people who are opposed to this are trying to speak for the majority, the people who don’t agree with them," says Kallman. (In addition to helping organize Pulaski County Pride, Kallman is performing at the drag event as Sister Mary Ashtray
"I grew up in this town. I work in this town as a firefighter, I’ve never encountered any hostility in my workplace," Kallman says. "I believe that this area is open to the type of change and the type of diversity that we’re trying to bring."
In the meantime, the back-and-forth sniping continues. In a story published Tuesday in St. Louis' Boom Magazine
, Kallman accused Maurina of going to "every length possible" in his campaign against the drag event, including contacting Kallman's supervisor at the Waynesville Rural Fire Protection District to complain.
Maurina fired back with another Facebook post, calling the Boom story "not
At this point, it doesn't appear that either fans of drag or those in Maurina's camp are willing to back down. But at least they're not spewing hate about "sick perverted queers" or comparing gays to child molesters. Does that count as a victory? Only, perhaps, in rural Missouri.
See also: Journalist Refuses to Cover Pride Event at Fort Leonard Wood, "Comes Out" as Anti-LGBT
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_ Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com