A lavishly dressed person in drag queen attire (a pink dress, cape, tiara, and detailed make up) stands on the concrete stoop of a brick home.

Uma: “Pride is more than just a weekend or even a month out of a year. I can’t help but celebrate Pride all year long. You see, I have never blended in—some might say I’m flamboyant or dramatic—so living openly and honestly in my truth has always been a part of my life’s journey. Being comfortable in one’s own skin and then developing Pride in who you are and what you are is a magical adventure. I’m proud, not just to be a gay man, but to also be a kind soul, a human that brings humor to any situation, someone who craves new experiences, a person that values love, and I’m also a beguiling glorious drag queen. So, to those of you out there struggling with your identity or developing Pride in yourself, I say: don’t wait for a weekend or a month or a festival, don’t remain tight in a bud, blossom! If you are meant to be a drag queen, embrace it! Be proud, honey, because there’s no point in standing in the shade when you could bask in the spotlight.”

Audio Transcript

Hello, darlings, it’s me, Uma Jewels. I’ve lived in Lexington for 10 years and I’d like to live in a different America, an America free from reprobate politicians, an America that values the culture of the individual, an America that lives up to its promise. Because I am fed up with the corruption in our political system and tired of seeing people suffer needlessly. I want America to truly be a land of opportunity.

The America I want to live in no longer has a two party system and instead has truly representative government. I want publicly funded elections. I want lobbyists removed from our political system and I want term limits for all of our elected officials. Get money out of our elections. Corporations are NOT people and I want them and their money and their influence banned from participating in the political process. I want corporate power neutered and I want a cap placed on how much profit the corporations in most industries can earn. There is no excuse for billions of dollars in profits earned in a quarter while we have a homeless population surpassing the size of most of the cities in this country.

And corporations should pay their fair share of taxes, not be bailed out year after year with subsidies and loopholes. If you want to do business or sell your product in this country, you need to have a corporate headquarters here and pay taxes like everyone else. I want banks broken up. I want the tech monoliths broken up and paying for our personal data that they have weaponized against us. And I want an enforcement of the laws controlling our monopolistic media.

I want our media to return to journalism, not entertainment for advertising dollars and the de-education of the masses. I want a political system that wants an educated citizenry. We need to reprioritize towards humanism.

In the anthropological sense, culture is seen as the unique experiences and knowledge that an individual possesses. The America I want to live in respects each person’s culture. There is no room nor tolerance for racism, heterosexism, ageism, classism, etc. Not because the government forces people to abandon their way of thinking—that would be fascism—but because we, the people, as a society, have no desire to otherise our fellow human beings.

I desire a unified, dignified, proud America that celebrates our differences and recognizes that our strength has never come from homogenisation. I want to live in an America that values life by providing free health care to all citizens, that cares about the mental health of its citizens, and that recognizes that there must be more to life than working 40 hours a week in a job that is meaningless. It is unrealistic to expect that there are enough jobs in the country for every person of working age to be employed, that enough money exists in the richest country to have ever existed for every citizen to live comfortably.

I feel that it is not the role of government to provide a job to each citizen, nor is it the responsibility of the government to provide happiness. However, if the government were to provide a universal basic income to all citizens, each individual would have the opportunity to find happiness. This sense of purpose could come in the form of a side job, a small business, gig work, more time with their family and friends, or for many Americans, happiness already comes in the form of regular employment. A universal basic income, however, provides freedom of expression. Our society should center on a happiness index, not the gross domestic product.

Finally, I want to live in an America that honors its promise: freedom, justice and liberty for all. We cannot hold our heads high while millions of our citizens are locked up for petty crimes, while our citizens are gunned down by law enforcement or vigilantes, while militias arm themselves and threaten the peace, while freedom of speech is threatened on all sides because of a lack of dialogue or the highest office in the land is held to a standard lower than that of an elementary school teacher.

And liberty cannot exist in a nation without compromise. I want to live in an America with conciliation, with compromise and kindness, where our elected officials act with the dignity deserving of their office, where our communities live in harmony and mutual respect, and where our individual citizens find happiness and inner peace through everyday life, not just living for the weekend.

Thank you for listening.

Lexington in the Time of COVID-19 is an artwork about people practicing social distancing at a time of a deadly virus. And also offering kindness.

Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova capture photographs at the periphery of American culture, where drag queens, discarded couches, and abandoned motel signs exist.