Drag Race UK star Cheddar Gorgeous sends stern message to Rishi Sunak over World AIDS Day snub
After Rishi Sunak chose not to wear a World Aids Day ribbon, Drag Race UK finalist Cheddar Gorgeous has condemned the prime minister for failing to address the UK government’s homophobia.
The queer drag artist made a powerful call for HIV awareness last month when they walked the Drag Race runway in a catsuit adorned with pink triangles and the words “silence = death”, paying tribute to the vital work of the ACT UP movement.
And after Rishi Sunak’s World AIDS day snub, for Cheddar, it’s a stark reminder that there is still work to do when it comes to defending basic LGBTQ+ rights.
“What’s that about?” Cheddar tells PinkNews.
“How have we gotten to the point where solidarity with people who experience stigma and health issues from a disease is considered to be too political an issue?”
Sunak’s failure to show support for those affected by HIV is just the latest in a series of letdowns from the UK government regarding LGBTQ+ rights and highlights an increasingly homophobic environment.
“Let’s really start to understand how these public health messages contribute to overall homophobia in society,” Cheddar Gorgeous continues.
“[This] then shapes bad health policy that doesn’t look after people. It’s only a matter of time before we start to talk about deserving and undeserving unwell people.”
As for Sunak, Cheddar explains that we must remain vigilant against the steady erosion of human rights that remains a threat to modern society and leaves marginalised groups open to attack.
Pointing out that systemic oppression such as “racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism and ableism” are all connected, they warn any rights given can easily be taken away.
“We are literally all in that same boat together,” she continues, “it only takes you pushing one boundary of people’s human rights, and they will take another, and another and another.
“I would say to Rishi Sunak that certain things are not up for debate.”
As an ambassador of HIV support charity George House Trust, Cheddar Gorgeous is particularly aware of the importance of turning words into meaningful action.
“We live in a society full of gestures,” he notes, “but those gestures are often not backed up in action, policy change or funding.”
Speaking about their decision to spotlight the pink triangle on the main stage of Drag Race UK, a symbol once notoriously used in Nazi concentration camps to identify gay men during World War Two, they knew they had to do more than just bring attention to HIV/AIDs stigma.
To mark the cause, Cheddar has decided to auction their runway look and split the proceeds between George House Trust and the Terrence Higgins Trust, two leading UK charities combating stigma and supporting HIV-positive people.
This auction is about turning the celebratory moment into “something that’s real and practical”, as well as reminding viewers that drag is a powerful medium for sharing political messages.
Cheddar believes that the most recent season of Drag Race UK was especially successful in showing how drag can be used as a tool of political rebellion, with a cast of contestants “that have something important to say”.
“We use comedy and entertainment and beauty and glamour to actually hammer home incredibly important messages,” they explain.
That being said, Cheddar wasn’t without reservations entering Drag Race. Going into the fourth season, they worried people might find them “too serious”, particularly when they decided to create their now-iconic pink triangle outfit.
“I honestly didn’t think it was gonna be given the space in order to show its complexity,” Cheddar admits. “I was very positively surprised that the show gave it a hell of a lot of space.”
Cheddar Gorgeous is also especially gracious about being placed runner-up to Drag Race UK winner Danny Beard, praising their “gift to make us laugh and give us joy”.
“I knew exactly how much winning Drag Race meant to them,” they continue. “And so seeing their dreams come true was absolutely wonderful.”
Now that Drag Race has drawn to a close, Cheddar is hopeful that the camaraderie between the cast will act as a counter-narrative to the “the bitchy images of queer people we so often see on telly”.
“Isn’t everyone sick that we either need to be a clown or are in conflict with one another? In RuPaul’s Drag Race, the community always trumps the competition.”
And for Cheddar Gorgeous, a veteran of the drag community, coming on the show has reignited their love for the medium.
“It’s reinvigorated my belief in drag as a powerful form of storytelling that creates living stories that people can connect with in a really uncanny and fantastic way,” they explain. “And it’s allowing me another moment.”
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