DUP MLA backs Alternative Queer Ulster event at Stormont addressed by controversial drag queen
A DUP MLA is co-sponsoring a Stormont event which will be addressed by a drag queen who once wore a tiara coated with dried HIV-infected blood.
Belfast drag queen Electra (28) is set to appear at the inaugural Alternative Queer Ulster event, sponsored by the DUP's North Belfast MLA Paula Bradley, Sinn Fein's Newry and Armagh MLA Megan Fearon and South Belfast Green Party MLA Clare Bailey, at Parliament Buildings tomorrow night.
Ms Bailey is the primary sponsor, while Ms Bradley and Ms Fearon are co-sponsors.
The drag queen will deliver a talk entitled "Stop asking for acceptance" from a platform at the bottom of the stairs in the Great Hall.
In 2016, as part of her outfit at the Belfast Pride parade, Electra reportedly wore a tiara coated with dried HIV positive blood in a bid to "fight bigotry and encourage conversation around the subject".
LGBT+ website PinkNews said that the tiara was "coated in the blood of a consenting HIV+ donor, taken by a qualified doctor, then applied to the crown to dry, letting the virus die with it".
The performer told the publication that her aim was to "fight against the stigma" suffered by HIV positive people.
Experts said that the dried blood posed an exceptionally small risk, but TUV leader Jim Allister said it was "irresponsible" to permit her to speak at Stormont.
He said: "Is there anything to say she won't do this again?
"She has been given the ultimate platform to do whatever she likes, and those who have sponsored the event need to explain themselves.
"It's irresponsible. I think Stormont is a venue totally unsuited to that sort of escapade.
"She thinks it's appropriate to crown her head with HIV-infected blood as a means of making some sort of twisted commentary.
"I find it sick and disgusting that someone who would do that would be elevated to the point of being a guest speaker at an event."
But organiser Malachai O'Hara of the Queer Greens described Electra's actions in 2016 as "performance art" and said he had been aware of them when she was invited to speak.
He revealed that all 180 tickets for the event had sold out.
"We invited people to forward submissions to talk about the things that are not being talked about in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity," he said.
"Myself and a panel of four others filtered through submissions and selected 20 speakers.
"They will descend the steps in the Great Hall and there will be a stage at the bottom of the steps.
"Some people will perform, there will be poetry and speakers. Electra will just speak.
"Guidelines have been put in place for the speakers which encourage them to be respectful.
"Almost two people a week are diagnosed with HIV - it's essential we talk about it.
"Historically, the Executive parties have failed to advance LGBT equality, and we want to give LGBT people the chance to speak."
A DUP spokesperson said Ms Bradley had not been "privy to specific details, including participants" and was "acting as a co-sponsor in good faith". He said: "The primary sponsor for any event in Parliament Buildings is the person responsible for the event under the Assembly's guidelines.
"Paula Bradley is one of the co-sponsors for this event and as such was not privy to specific details, including participants.
"She is acting as a co-sponsor in good faith that the event will comply fully with all policies and guidelines laid down by the Northern Ireland Assembly and it is expected that this will be the case." The spokesperson added: "Event organisers agree to the terms and conditions produced by the Assembly Commission which includes agreement that the event will be conducted in a responsible manner and that guests will comply with the Assembly's policies on conduct and behaviour of visitors in Parliament Buildings."
Green Party MLA Ms Bailey said she was "more interested in what Electra has to say" than her actions in 2016.
"I have no concerns about sponsoring the event," she said.
"I'm looking forward to it. I'm more interested in what Electra has to say, in hearing marginalised voices in the seat of power where MLAs have the power and opportunity to make conditions and lives better."
Electra declined to comment, but Sinn Fein's Megan Fearon, who is the party's equality spokesperson, said: "What is really irresponsible is Jim Allister's continued denial of rights to our LGBT brothers and sisters.
"If Jim Allister had any real concern for the LGB and T communities he would attend and support Pride events and help to bring an end to the disgraceful denial of rights enjoyed by people elsewhere on this island and in Britain."
An Assembly spokesperson said that "all events and tours with hospitality must be sponsored by at least three members to reflect cross designation support approved by the Assembly Commission" and that tomorrow's event "fully conforms to this requirement".