LUMBERTON, NC (WBTW) — Two sold-out drag shows Saturday were a first in the city of Lumberton, and organizer Justin Herring said he had some difficulties putting the event together.
“As a queer kid in Robeson County, I didn’t really have a place to express myself,” Herring said. “I really wanted this to be a shining light for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Herring said he received death threats after announcing the event.
“All of a sudden, when I announced drag brunch, people were like, ‘I’m going to kill you for bringing that to our county.’ That’s not what we need,” Herring said.
Herring said he was under 24-hour police protection for two weeks before the event. Uniformed and plainclothes Lumberton Police officers patrolled the outside while guests enjoyed the show at the Top That Dessert Bar.
“I’m not trying to put anyone down, but Robeson County has a lot of catching up to do,” said show headliner Stacy Layne Matthews.
Matthews appeared in the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and was raised in Robeson County. She said she was involved in drag shows at UNC Pembroke but never in Lumberton.
“It’s just going to be an eye opener for people because there’s so much more out there than what they have here,” Matthews said.
Herring intends to host similar shows once a month from now on. He said that coming out as gay was difficult for him because of his conservative Christian background, but he hopes to increase visibility and make the process easier for others.
“I think that was necessary. I think that was necessary,” Herring said. “I feel like today I gave someone the opportunity to be themselves in a world where they feel hidden.”
An officer said Lumberton Police will continue to provide additional security at the events if further threats are received or Herring requests the department’s presence.