A celebration of legendary queer artist Dharma Mirza, a.k.a. Frisky the Transgender Reindeer, Mother of the Haus of Dharma, is upon us. Mirza has had an incredible impact on the queer community of Benton County over several years, doing outreach and activism work for Valley Aids Information Network, as well as finding, hosting, creating, and participating in venues for drag shows and queer-based events and panels. A new class at Linn Benton Community College was created due to her work, and Mirza organized the Corvallis Pride festival in 2018. Her history of queer activism is, in a word, astounding.
Titled Cher the Love, the upcoming show will donate all entry fees, plus some performance tips, in supporting Mirza on her path to health and recovery as she is currently in rehab. Many local queens are expected to perform, several of whom are part of Mirza’s drag haus, Haus of Dharma. Members of the haus set up the event as a surprise in support of Mirza.
Floored by the action, Mirza says, “One of the hardest things [about] being an activist is the burnout; We give and give and don’t even expect reciprocity. It is humbling, wild—it feels surreal that I have that support.”
Mirza’s work has been monumental, granting her legend status in Corvallis, since moving here in 2012 to get a healthier start. “I didn’t know I would change the community this much, but I knew I wanted to.”
Demi-Morgan the Attack Helicopter, a member of Haus of Dharma who helped create the event, felt it was important to give back to Mirza, for her footing much of the local activism work as a trans woman of color—adding to the ranks of others throughout history who’ve initiated intersectional queer movements in the United States.
“The show is a fundraiser and tribute to Dharma, with proceeds going to cover health care costs. Dharma has taken up the community organizing labor that few people are willing to do,” Morgan shares. “She gives us a place to feel safe and connect … She’s provided me a place to perform and explore my gender and expression in a safe place.”
Excited to add spoken word to the drag community, Morgan was inducted into the haus mid-way through last year, and quickly became a staple at shows for their poetry around asexuality and queerness.
Performer Cali Je, though not a haus member, got involved in the Corvallis community largely in part to Mirza. Originally an Idahoan queen, Je felt the love of the haus immediately: “When I know that I can play a part in helping someone close to me, I take that opportunity. Dharma has done so much for the community and the drag scene, [that a] a drag show to help her out seemed obvious.”
Je has been involved in the Corvallis drag scene for just over a year, and is well-loved for her vocal performances and recent Drag Queen Story Time event series.
Mirza will be returning to Corvallis later this February and is incredibly excited to be back: “When I’m the best Dharma I can be, when I’m living my Dharma life, Corvallis won’t be ready; They haven’t even seen the best of me.”
Cher the Love happens Feb 14 at DeMaggio’s Pizza, 151 NW Monroe Ave. 21 and older. Begins 9:30 p.m. $5 entrance fee. All proceeds to the health and recovery of drag haus mother Dharma Mirza.