Editor’s Note: This story originally ran as part of our new show, “Sound Effect,” which airs on Saturdays at 10 a.m. 

The blue-haired drag queen stood in the middle of the street in a sequined dress, a quilted rainbow affixed to her bosom. She was angry. So was the protester in front of her, a smaller man carrying a megaphone and a sign that read “REPENT.”

Just before the start of Seattle’s most recent Pride Parade downtown, a group of protestors came marching down Fourth Avenue, urging the crowd to rebuke homosexuality and profess a belief in Jesus Christ.

The drag queen, Mama Tits, turned on the microphone she was about to use to emcee the parade. Her deep voice boomed from huge speakers, echoing off tall buildings as the crowd cheered her on.

The incident was captured on video, shared on YouTube and, as of this writing, had been viewed 1.8 million times. It gave Mama Tits a healthy career boost, and her out-of-drag alter-ego Brian Peters says life hasn’t been the same since.

(Photo by Tim Durkan)

Mama Tits, up close. (Courtesy of Tim Durkan)

Drawn to drag from an early age

Peters, now 35, was 15 years old when his mom walked in on him brushing out a wig. He explained that he was going out with friends, in drag.

“She is the most supportive, loving, caring woman in the world,” he said. “But she was confused; she didn’t know how the world was going to deal with this. And so she just kind of walked out of the room.”

Fast-forward about 20 years, and Peters is still brushing out wigs — usually on Sunday mornings as he prepares to transform into Mama Tits.

“Mother Ru Paul says you’re born naked and everything else is drag,” he said. “Aside from wearing fabulous clothes and wigs, I’ve completely covered who I am, and I wear this mask. And this mask of this character gives me this power of anonymity.”

But Peters is far from anonymous. He prefers to blur the line between the character and the performer during his weekly Sunday brunch shows, often turning to an audience member and declaring, “I’m a dude,” as though someone might not have realized that.

Mama Tits takes the stage. (Courtesy of Tim Durkan)

Mama Tits takes the stage. (Courtesy of Tim Durkan)

And his shows are a blend of singing, dancing, camp and politics. At one show, Peters devoted part of Mama’s monologue to how Facebook’s ban on pseudonyms proved harmful to the drag community and, for that matter, victims of domestic violence who are looking for a clean start. At another show, Mama moved across the floor toward a gay couple sitting at a nearby table.

“Oh,” she cooed, “homosexuals are getting married. See what you did?”

The audience clapped, laughing.

“You all voted, and now they think they have the right to get married,” she said, feigning revulsion. “You all voted, and now they think they have the right to get married. This is disgusting.”

Peters feels pushing boundaries is a responsibility.

“The queens have been the court jesters of the community for a long time,” he said. “When I have the drag makeup on … the power that comes with that is ridiculous. I could just completely have fun with it all the time, or I can do what is at my heart, which is try to make a difference.”

‘This was my boot camp’: Joining the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

Peters says he learned the right way to make a difference as a nun.

Besides being known as Mama Tits, Peters is also known as “Sister Stella Standing,” a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

The San Francisco-based group has a large chapter in Seattle, called The Abbey of St. Joan of Arc. Formed in 1979, the group’s members complete a rigorous process to join, first becoming novices, the postulants, then fully-professed sisters. The sisters dress in drag as nuns, paint their faces white and perform acts of charity and community service.

The sisters, Peters says, are the nuns of the gay community. They give information on safe sex. They pass out condoms. They help people get access to health care and counseling if needed.

They supported him when he was diagnosed with HIV while in the process of joining.

“That was my boot camp. It was my going-to-university,” Peters said. “You can be angry about something and want to make a change, but if you go about it the wrong way, you’re going to do nothing but hinder your cause.”

The scene at the Pride Parade

Peters doesn’t know if he changed any minds at the Pride parade. He was in character as Mama Tits, hosting the event for the fifth year in a row, when he spotted a group of protesters marching down Fourth Avenue.

They carried signs quoting verses from the Bible. They shouted messages about repentance and the damnation that lay ahead.

“I was livid,” Peters said. “Mind you, I was in blue hair, an aqua-blue sequined dress and a glitter rainbow on my boobs. And the next thing I know, they’re in front of me.”

Mama Tits moved to confront the protestors. At 7 feet tall in high heels, she towered over a man with a megaphone who appeared to be leading the group. He tried to move around her. She kept getting in his way.

“I was doing it to antagonize him, so Seattle police would remove him,” Peters said. “He got so frustrated that he kept pushing on me.”

And then, Peters says, the man whacked her on the head with his sign. The police didn’t see, and the protesters moved on. Farther down the street, their march was again blocked, this time by a group of motorcycle-riding lesbians who call themselves “Dykes on Bikes.”

When the protesters made their way back near Mama Tits, she turned on her microphone.

The video ended up on YouTube, and Mama Tits received worldwide attention.

‘I woke up Monday morning and everybody knew who I was’

Peters learned numerous news organizations and blogs had covered the incident or shared the video: Upworthy, Buzzfeed, E Online, Huffington Post, Addicting Info, Towleroad, OutTraveler, PinkNews UK, Same Same Australia, Gay.it (in Italy), Gay New Zealand, Huffington Post UK — the list went on.

A week later, it had been shared on four continents.

“I woke up Monday morning and everybody knew who I was,” Peters said. “It went global.”

He says people now come to see Mama Tits perform from farther away. A group of visitors from Germany walked in and said they had seen the video and knew they needed to catch “Mimosas with Mama” while in Seattle. Shows sell out regularly.

The protesters, and the man she confronted, were trying to “steal our audience,” said Peter: “We don’t go to your revival and come in and start spewing how evil and nasty you are. Why would you do that?”

As it turns out, the protesters had the right to be there. They’d been granted a permit for a demonstration in the small window of time before the parade began.

“I thought they had crashed the parade,” Peters said. “I didn’t find out they had a permit until weeks later.”

(Ed Ronco/KPLU)

(Ed Ronco/KPLU)

‘I am proud to be a freak’

Peters doesn’t think he changed any mind of any protester. But he also says he wasn’t really aiming at them. His angry monologue at the Pride parade was a statement for those who were watching. Parade organizer Seattle Pride estimates some 450,000 people were lining the parade route.

Peters says he thought about someone watching who might have been unsure of their sexuality. Or parents who were at the parade to try and support an LGBT child.

“I think of all the people that have had to deal with this hate and didn’t feel supported. All of the people that feel worthless. All of the people that feel like something’s wrong with them because they’re not the way that somebody else told them that they should be,” Peters said. “And it hurts me.”

Because once upon a time, he was that person.

“I am proud to be a freak. I am proud to be a faggot. I am proud to be a queen,” he said. “I am proud to be a survivor of abuse and HIV. I’m not ashamed, and I don’t want anybody else to be.”

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