Queer Artists and the Economic Hit of COVID-19

COVID-19 has been causing a national deadstop in job prospects. The majority of Americans don’t have the option to work from home: when their place of employment is closed down, they are out of work. Working from home is a privilege, one that many don’t have. In fact, in the last four weeks, 22 million Americans have filed unemployment claims. This economic strain has hurt the heart of America, and, consequently, has caused devastating damage on an international scale. The average worker has been stripped of their income source, and, though the government has in part tried to quell these economic pains, little effective measures have been taken. In short, American workers have been left to fend for themselves.

However, this economic strain has been significantly hitting one group in particular: independent contractors. In a world that has become increasingly more open to self-employment, those who don’t work for a larger business or corporation often have little to no money flowing in. These independent contractors often fall into younger age categories. Likewise, however, many of these independent contractors are queer. On a base level, the arts specifically are disproportionally queer. The arts also call for a fair amount of independent work, and independent contracting. As an artist, your hiring for gigs or shows lie in the hands of someone else and is on a day by day basis. Without a steady source of income, and with the present stay-at-home order, queer artists are getting hit hard by the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Take, for example, the field of drag. Drag is an almost entirely queer entertainment form, but also a form of independent contracting. It is incredibly rare for a drag queen to have a fixed salary: the majority work on a case-by-case basis, making their money based on where and when they get hired for nightly gigs. Though we often think of the flashy names when we think of drag (the RuPauls, Bianca Del Rios, and Trixie Mattels), the majority of drag queens live below the line of fame. The majority of drag queens are only visible to locals, those who frequent the bars or clubs of their performances. In short, the majority of drag queens don’t have the fame or money to survive a complete cutoff of income, and, with all bars and clubs shut down, many drag queens have no cash coming into their homes. This goes for drag kings, bio queens, and essentially all queer performers. With the shutdown of bars and clubs, queer artists have been losing any and all access to sources of income.

In fact, this loss of income has created a trend in which drag queens have been putting their Venmos and CashApps on their instagrams for “donations”. This, to some extent, is a good idea. However, the Venmos and CashApps that have found the most traffic are those with bigger names, with bigger followings. The local queens, your local queer performers, are not getting enough traffic to have any sense of a livable income. We need to support our local queer performers.

In the age of shutdowns, in the age of cancelled public gatherings, independent contractors are largely out of work. When it comes to the queer community, most of our favorite queer artists have been out of commission with no income source. It is our prerogative, as consumers of queer media and queer artistry, to support these suffering artists. So, if you have enjoyed the work of a drag queen, singer, or dancer in the past, send them a tip. They need all the help they can get.

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