by Shaun Knittel -
SGN A&E Writer
Members of the Grays Harbor LGBTQ and Allied communities are unhappy with an article published this week by local newspaper The Daily World in which they say the community has been greatly mischaracterized, inaccurate information about the dates and times of events were published, and the lies of a bigoted bar owner were presented as if he were the victim when it is alleged that he told members of the community that they would 'leave in body bags' if they entered The Black Pearl Tavern on a Friday or Saturday night.
The article, published August 28, says that the 'dispute between tavern owners and LGBTQ group becomes toxic.' The Daily World reporter David Hammock opens the report saying, 'A conflict between the owners of a Hoquiam bar and the Grays Harbor LGBTQ community has boiled over into an ugly situation with each side claiming the other is guilty of threatening violence.'
Hammock goes on to report that The Black Pearl Tavern owners Johnny and Denise Gallego were approached by an LGBTQ group that wanted to hold a drag show at the bar. The problem is - according to leaders in the Grays Harbor LGBTQ community - nobody met with Johnny Gallego about hosting a drag event at the Pearl and by reporting Gallego's lies the newspaper is helping to mischaracterize the community, when in fact it is the LGBTQ community that is under attack, and not the other way around.
There are other things wrong with the report as well, says Ceasar Hart, LGBTQ activist, well-known drag king performer, and leader in the Grays Harbor LGBTQ community. 'We held a Pride Prom on August 18 to kick off Pride events, which according to what the Black Pearl owner says in the article is when we were all there having a sit in asking about a drag show and that there was 30 to 40 of us according to the Daily World article,' Hart told SGN. 'But the sit in that Gallegos is quoted as mentioning happened back in April and was due to Gallegos asking a Transgender person to leave the establishment because he felt that the Trans person was making Black Pearl regulars feel uncomfortable.'
Hart does have a point. A quick read of the published article will bring you to the conclusion that while the article is being presented as bias-free, the reality is Gallegos and the lies he tells have been published without scrutiny and the dates and locations of actual events are not correct.
'The sit-in and the call to boycott the Pearl is not because he wouldn't allow a drag show to happen there,' Hart continued. 'I produce the drag shows in Grays Harbor and never once has that thought ever entered my mind to ask him if we could use his space for anything. I'm great where I'm at and I know where I'll hold my shows in the future.'
'The Pearl,' says Hart, 'would not be one of those places.'
Hart's wildly popular once-per-month drag show, 'Small Town, Big Harts,' is produced and performed at Simpson Ave. Bar and Grill, owned by straight ally Shelly Dixon. Dixon stood up to Gallegos, condemning the threats and hate speech she and others say Gallegos spews, and in return she became a target of online accusations being made that she is, in fact, Lesbian, and not straight. Dixon doesn't deny being Lesbian because she views being accused of one is bad - she denies the allegation because it simply is not true. While Gallegos is doing his best to discredit anyone that speaks out against his actions and condemns his words, it is important to note that he called Dixon a Lesbian as a way to insult her. If the man is so innocent and accepting as some are trying to make others believe, then why would he think that being a Lesbian is a negative thing?
'I take hate and bigotry seriously,' says Hart. 'There is no room for that kind of mentality in Grays Harbor. Nobody wants that here. It's time for it to go!'
The lies that some LGBTQ members of Grays Harbor allege Gallegos says in The Daily World article also include a claim that he saw a man performing oral sex on another man near the dance floor of his bar during the sit-in, a person participating in the sit-in told Gallegos that they had a relative in the Syrian army who was coming to kill him and his family, and more.
These lies are absurd, says Miki Cabell, executive director of Out & Proud Grays Harbor Coalition. Cabell told SGN that she was at the sit-in and that the accusations made by Gallegos should not have been printed in the article because there is absolutely nothing to prove those things happened. In fact, Cabell flat out denies that anybody was having oral sex, threatening the life of the owner and his family, or anything close to it.
Enemies of the LGBTQ community, particularly when it comes to Gay men, have often times justified their hate or attacks on what has become known as the 'panic defense.' It is, 'That Gay guy touched me so I didn't know what else to do, so I shot him,' type stuff. For decades it has worked to get people out of trouble who most certainly should be in trouble. It also works in the sense that it turns people against the community, and I suspect that is what Gallegos is up to by tell the Daily World reporter the things he did, which makes the dynamic where we now have to defend ourselves about the right to defend ourselves to people who think that we are sexual deviants, misbehaved, depraved, and on and on and on. Hart and Cabell are particularly aware of this as they began to see, after the newspaper published Gallegos lies, the situation play out in which people began saying, 'Well, if they did that in my bar I would throw them out too,' or 'How can you claim to be threatened if you are also threatening someone with violence.' Gallegos is simply using an old tactic - but it is unfortunately an effective one.
Cabell does not dispute that at one point (she says it was at the very end of the sit-in when she and an 'unnamed friend' who does not wish to be identified had been threatened by Gallegos) a suction-cupped large dildo was placed on the bar and Gallegos was told to 'Sit on that' as they left.
Now, it is important to put something into perspective here and that is the fact that, yes, on its own, some people could take that as a stupid thing to have done, helps to prove Gallegos's accusations and just was all around a bad idea to do. But I ask you, which is more shocking or egregious? A dildo or death threats? Obviously the answer is death threats. The person who stuck the penis to the bar did so after having received threats from Gallegos. It is important to not lose that perspective when judging the action.
The people who have begun to take up for Gallegos and The Black Pearl Tavern have said things like, 'where is your proof,' even though Hart and friends have dozens and dozens of screenshots of the owners responding to bad reviews and Facebook posts with hateful and bigoted words. Is that not proof? Also, a former employee came out to set the record straight.
Jodie Frodert posted on Facebook that Gallegos is, in fact, anti-LGBTQ community. She urged anyone that wanted to speak to her as a witness to his homophobia, to contact her. Additionally, Gallegos is painted out as not being anti-Transgender when others say that that couldn't be further from the truth.
Cabell told SGN, 'Employees and the Transgender person themselves, both have told me that Gallegos referred to them as 'it,' saying, 'Why does it have makeup on' and then asked the Transgender person to leave because they were making his customers uncomfortable.'
Hart is working with others to organize a peaceful protest against The Black Pearl Tavern on September 10, from 12 - 4pm at 7th and J Street in Hoquiam. The event invite reads, 'Please join the LGBTQ and ally community to let The Black Pearl Tavern that discrimination is not tolerated in our town. The LGBTQ community has worked hard to make Grays Harbor a safe and accepting community. Events, actions, and words spoken by the owners/workers of The Black Pearl Tavern have been hateful, discriminatory and downright terrifying. Threatening people that if they come into the business they will leave in body bags....this kind of behavior has no place in this town. So let's gather and find solidarity in one another that hate doesn't belong here in Hoquiam.'
It is important to note that Hart and fellow organizers have planned a 'peaceful protest' which directly contradicts Gallegos' assertions that the community has threatened him with violence.
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