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