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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Indigenous drag queen MadB is full of love

Not an activist for gay rights, trans rights or Indigenous rights, Canberra’s Indigenous diva, drag queen delight MadB fights for everyone’s right to be who they are and love who they love. 

MadB said they were born from the residual hate of 2017’s ugly public debate over the Safe Schools education program – intended to reduce LBGTQIA bullying in classrooms.

Safe Schools began in Victoria in 2010, was added to the national curriculum in 2013, independently reviewed as a success in 2016, and dismantled by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott the same year.

The nature of the program required some teaching of gender theory, which sparked protests and counter protests in most capital cities.

MadB’s caring nature, extensive experience in youthwork, and parental role to a non-binary child inspired them to take to the streets outside the ACT Legislative Assembly – dressed in drag – in support of the program.

They were met with opposition from fringe group The Party of Freedom, which filmed MadB’s street performance and uploaded it to YouTube, labelling them “crystal balls”, which MadB took as a reference to methamphetamine.

In the clip, you can hear MadB subjected to slurs including being called a paedophile and told they are mentally ill.

The fallout of this clip reached MadB’s young daughter at school.

“They called me ‘Crystal Balls’, because of meth balls, and they try to use that as a connotation,” MadB said.

“So, I’m like, they’ve given me a name, what can I do this with all this publicity?”

MadB took the name and ran with it. They entered a drag competition and performed as Crystal Balls for two years before moving beyond the name.

MadB realised they had become more than a protest; in drag, they had found an avenue for expressing their positivity and love and a platform to advocate for equality.

“That’s my catchphrase, ‘born out of hate to bring love to your world’,” they said.

The Safe Schools campaign almost drove MadB and family to leave Canberra.

By that time, they had lived here for two years and “were settled and happy”.

“When it got ugly, we thought we don’t really need this in our lives,” MadB said.

“But then, we realised, you know, the hate being pushed at us was not a whole community.

“I mean, when you’ve been attacked, it feels like it is everybody. Your mental health goes. Everything goes.”

And so MadB was born.

“They said to me, ‘we’ve always called you both mum and dad and you’re also a Mad B’ and I thought that’s the most original drag name out there. So, it was given to me by my kids.”

MadB and family survived the Safe Schools saga to go through the same sex marriage plebiscite, which MadB refers to as the “plebish**t” in a difficult year for the queer community.

From that hate-filled beginning, MadB has found their calling and now even occasionally performs with their daughter.

MadB said despite the expanded interested in drag over recent years, they are is keeping it O.G. (original gangster); their show is old school with a twist of comedy.

They rock a cabaret show at Smith’s Alternative and have recently taken home a prize for Miss Personality.

MadB spent NAIDOC Week (8-15 November) celebrating Indigenous culture, performing their show, My Island Home, at NAIDOC in the North.

“We have all these beautiful cultures come into Australia, and that is amazing. But um, hello. We have our own beautiful culture right here,” MadB said, “with so much history.”

Much more than a one-week wonder, MadB has been a passionate advocate for inclusivity their whole life, and is now a member of the ACT Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer Ministerial Advisory Council.

MadB said younger generations are more accepting of LBGTQIA but there was still more work to do.

“You look at remote communities with the suicide rates and all of that,” MadB said.

“We look at the Indigenous youth suicide rate, and you sort of go ‘well, wait there. What percentage of those are queer?’ We don’t know. Because they weren’t identified.”

MadB uses the pronouns they, them, their, theirs.

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