Black Joy

Beyond Drag Race: How drag led this Southerner on a journey of self-discovery

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If I was looking for ambassadors of Black queer joy, Fitzgerald “Fitz” Webb would definitely be one of them.

The 27-year-old Georgia native really grew into their authentic self since moving to Auburn, Ala., in 2014. They’ve become a pillar in the community as two-time vice president of the LGBTQ+ organization Pride on the Plains. Fitz was introduced to drag while participating in a drag camp with a friend in 2016. After finishing their undergrad at Auburn University, Fitz started performing in drag shows almost every weekend across Alabama and parts of Georgia. They won four pageant titles between 2019 and 2020 under their drag king persona Tucker Bleu, and found community in their drag house family, House of Bleu. While Fitz is close with their blood family, their drag family strengthens their support system as a trans southerner.

“I think at Auburn, I really grew an understanding of Alabama and the South,” Fitz said. “The South is not ‘Larry the Cable Guy.’ It is soul. It is Black. It is beautiful. It is bold history.”

After finishing their Masters in Communications at Auburn University, Fitz is enjoying new milestones in their life. They moved back to their home state earlier this month after landing a job in Atlanta and bought a new home with their partner Emmy Patterson. Now those are some boss moves, y’all! I chatted with Fitz about how they grew into their authentic self in Alabama, advice about homeownership and the importance of creating community.

Starr: How has your drag king persona Tucker Bleu helped you along your trans journey?

Fitz: Picking out all the fun suits and stuff was really a great experience. But also meeting people who looked like me [while performing] really opened the world for me and made me realize like, ‘Oh, all these other societal norms are just what I’ve been told to believe and I never really questioned it.’

I was super sad for such a long time trying to be society’s standard of a great, perfect person, that I never took time to unpack gender norms…When I saw people living their authentic selves and living their lives – knowing that’s even a possibility relieved a lot of pain for me and created this space of like, “Oh, I can just be myself.” Knowing that path even existed was crucial.

Starr: It sounds like becoming Tucker Bleu was healing for you as you shedded those gender norms you learned as a child.

Fitz: Oh, for sure. It felt healing to the point where it healed some of my childhood trauma. I got really confident in trying to be a ‘successful Black woman’ and whatever that looked like to me at the time. It may be a business owner or like Viola Davis’ acting career. Whatever that looked like to me, I was just emulating that.

I think being Tucker gave me a chance to be super confident in being myself. Coming out of that shell helped me realize I can just be whoever. Period. Full stop. I don’t have to be so confident in this one mindset. On TikTok, I’ve seen a lot of people say, ‘Why can’t I just be a mediocre Black person?’ And I was like, ‘I felt that so hard.’ Like, I just want to be me and being Tucker let me do that.

So TikTok and being Tucker is how I learned about nonbinary and who I am because I was terrified to come out. And when I finally did come out, I knew I wanted to start hormones. Like, I love my body, but I don’t like how my body is perceived. I have my own gender dysphoria. So knowing there’s a term that didn’t mean I had to be a man made me realize it’s not that there’s a middle, but it just meant I can be ambiguous. I can be whoever I want to be.

Starr: So if you could put your finger on it, who is it that you’re trying to be?

Fitz: There’s three things I want to do in my lifetime: One is to have my own business in communications where I work with brands, other small businesses and individuals to amplify their stories, especially within the LGBTQ, BIPOC community and the intersections of our communities.

Also getting paid, because I work in the nonprofit space. So, learning my worth has been really interesting, but also being creative with my drag is really important to me. So I’ve been working on trying to get a podcast together and getting different content pieces together as Tucker. And then it’s just to make sure I make time for me, my partner and my family because that’s just something really important to me. So if I choose to be anything in life, it’s going to be happy and to be good at being happy.

Starr: I was wondering if you could tell me what were some of the barriers you’ve encountered on your journey to joy, and how have you overcome them?

Fitz: One of the issues for me is a lot of ignorance. It’s been really harmful not only to me as a Black person, but also me as a queer person and every intersect that I am. So, I’ve had to find joy in standing up for myself. Like, I can choose to cut people off. I still have choices I can make. Also leaning on a support system like my friends, my partner and their family. They’ve just been super cool and supportive and just great people.

A really good way to encapsulate this was when we came to Atlanta because I had a show. We’re looking at wedding venues. We’re touring houses. It was such a great experience, but the thing that broke the camel’s back to where I was tearing up was when I walked into the Kroger here in Atlanta, and it was the first time I’ve been in a grocery store where no one looked at me weird. Like, I wasn’t the only Black person or too queer for this space. I was just in a Kroger.

Even as a kid, I can remember my mom would take us to Walmart and people would be looking at us weird because my mom is very Asian and she had these Black kids. So we looked adopted, fostered or whatever. People would ask us, ‘Is that your mom?’ or ‘Are you OK?’

So, that had to be the first time I felt at peace. I found joy in this newfound sense of, ‘I’m gonna be alright.’ In that moment, I recognized that, as much as I have loved Auburn and been a part of the community, I’ve really outgrown my time there.

Starr: Let’s talk about homeownership! I know you bought your own home in Auburn. You’ve sold it and now have another home in Atlanta for your move. How has homeownership been for you as a nonbinary person and what tips would you give to other LGBTQ+ people who are also looking to be future homeowners?

Fitz: First I would say find a realtor who has you and your background in mind every step of the way. I had more than one realtor because the first few realtors didn’t work out well for me. Which was crazy because several people within my communities recommended these realtors, and I was like, ‘This would be great if I was a white man’ or ‘This would be great if I was a [cisgender] person.’ So a lot of these spaces were not working out for me. Finally I found a realtor who would just listen and found me a great little townhome.

Second is to be patient. I wish I had more patience while looking for homes and buying a place because one of the things I ran into is I had some really sh*tty neighbors. The cops would be called on me for the randomest shit once a quarter. At least twice a year. It was definitely weird, and I wish I’d taken more time to learn about who’s in the area, by driving around and seeing what flags are up, what stickers are on cars and that kind of stuff. Just taking a little bit more time because I truly don’t think I would have made the same choice.

So if I were talking to someone who was like 21or 22, Black and queer, and they were like, ‘Should I buy a home?’ I would say, yes and please be sure to look at all these things.

Starr: The LGBTQ+ community has endured a lot this year with the anti-trans legislation, threats and hateful rhetoric on social media and during events, and then the deadly shooting at Club Q. What would be your advice to people who are concerned right now?

Fitz: I’m trying to collect the words because part of me wants to just be like, ‘Screw them. Be who you are and fight for your rights.’ But I think at several points this year I’ve been really scared, too. Like, I’ve had to step away from social media. If I do decide to look into something, I’m checking more than one source and asking others about it to determine if this is true.

There are rhetorics I can’t control and there are things I can’t control, but the number one thing I can control is myself. So I took time to grieve healthily, but also leaning on those people I love as well and being grateful for them. One of my friends said to me, ‘Just hug your sisters tight.’ And I remember that being so hard to hear. So when I saw my sisters next time, I squeezed the heck out of them.

Learning how to exist doesn’t come without struggles and we protect us. So learning how to be safe, learning how to read the room, learning who you can lean on has been really crucial to me. And asking people for advice. If three people say, ‘Don’t go to that barber shop.’ Then I know not to go to that barber shop.

So, I will definitely say if you are scared, your feelings are valid. I wish you nothing but peace and I hope you can find space for yourself and for others. But I also say, go ask you some questions, get you some answers and pick yourself up because it won’t always seem like it, but tomorrow’s a better day.

Jonece Starr Dunigan

Jonece Starr Dunigan |

Jonece Starr Dunigan (She/her/hers) is a journalist who gives the microphone to communities that are often ignored by mainstream media. Guided by empathy, her reporting centers the stories, movement work and voices of Black, brown and queer people. Her writing strives to amplify and empower readers instead of exploiting them of their traumas.

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