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Monroe church and drag queen tag team bingo for charity

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Crystyl Jewylbox — Photo by Lauren Vasatka
Crystyl Jewylbox — Photo by Lauren Vasatka

On Saturday evening, May 20, Monroe United Methodist Church held its first Rainbow Bingo night, an LGBTQIA+-friendly evening with a Seattle drag queen as the host. Church member Missy Maxson coordinated the event and recruited the help of drag queen Crystyl Jewylbox. The bash was promoted on Facebook and quickly sold out.

After walking through the side door and down some steps, we parted a rainbow curtain, revealing the church's common area. Colorful garlands were strung around the support beams and along the ceiling. Pride-themed decorations were spread across tables, and attendees collected their food from the kitchen window in the back; on the menu were spaghetti and sweet rainbow-colored desserts prepared by church members.

Maxson took a microphone and spoke about why she decided to organize this event: "One, to have fun. Two, to raise money for our free pantry for the food insecure. And three, to show support for the LBGTQ+ community!" She ended her speech with, "The other side can be loud, but I can be loud too."

Maxson stated that she "felt called" after seeing the rise in anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. She believes that the teaching "love thy neighbor" should always be one of the top priorities of believers, and having a fully affirming church is a part of that. She described how, during the pandemic, the church explored ways to better serve its community, which was facing many challenges because of the global crisis.

"It was a free library," said Maxson, speaking about the little building neighboring the church. Church members realized that the space could be better utilized and so converted the property into a free pantry. They raised money and stocked the shelves for the homeless and local families facing food insecurity. The church partnered with Take the Next Step, a Snohomish County nonprofit, to provide community members with resources and support.

The mic was then passed to Crystyl Jewylbox, who wore a voluminous blond wig and a black dress adorned with crystals. Crystyl started the event with a game of "two truths and one lie." She asked the audience if they thought the statements that she is an avid fly fisher, has been married to a woman for 11 years, and identifies as Gay were true. Hands were flung into the air for each statement, as many were unsure which was the truth. The lie was that she identifies as Gay; she said that she is Genderfluid and "heteroflexible."

She explained that being a drag queen is her way of expressing her hyperfemininity. When asked how long she has been performing, she stated that she started three years ago, right before the pandemic. "I was one of the pandemic queens," she said, explaining how she initially taught herself the art form virtually. She also spoke about how happy she was to host this event, saying that right now is a "pivotal time" to work on raising LGBTQIA+ acceptance.

Photo by Lauren Vasatka  

Once the audience finished eating, numbers began to be called out, which could be tracked on a screen along a wall. According to Maxson, most of the bingo players were not active members of the church, and one table's participants even traveled there from Snohomish. It was interesting to see the variation in ages in the room, from elders to young adults to teens and children. Some wore Pride-themed fashion, and some children were adorned with rainbow face paint.

The players daubed their bingo sheets, and the competitiveness was palpable. One woman exclaimed, "One more!" Another person, in response, said, "No way!" A number of the children yelled in unison after each number, "I have it!" Several themed gift baskets were up for grabs as prizes, and the supply was running out fast.

Photo by Lauren Vasatka  

At the halfway point, Crystyl paused the game to hold a runway walk competition for the kids. One after the other, they strutted across the room to show off their walks and poses. The prize was the title of "Best Runway Walker in Monroe," and the winner was decided through cheering. The children's walks were fierce, but one little drag superfan stood out. Four-year-old Finn, whose drag name is "Ice Cream," visibly starstruck by Crystyl and is adored by many — particularly by their Auntie D — waved Crystyl's fan as they performed their walk. Finn's love for the art form was inspiring.

Photo by Lauren Vasatka  

Auntie D said, "Finn is a one in a million kid. They embrace the big, bold, beautiful experience of drag culture as their own. As an auntie (chosen family, not a blood relative), I think it has something to do with self-love and expression. Drag is one of those cultures that promote that above all else, and that really appeals to younger kids. Especially those who love dancing, singing, and being bold, like Finn."

As bingo came to a close, Crystyl performed a song and accepted tips from the attendees. She gave all the tips to the pantry, and Maxson said that without counting, they had raised over $800 for the cause.

Monroe United Methodist Church found a way to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and feed neighbors facing food insecurity. The next Rainbow Bingo has yet to be confirmed, but we hope it's soon.

If you'd like to see Crystyl Jewylbox perform, you can find her at Julia's on Broadway at its weekend Drag Brunch.