Alex U. Inn is a drag king, a performer who founded the hip-hop drag troupe Momma’s Boyz, and this year’s people’s choice Pride community grand marshal. An advocate for “justice and equality,” according to the SF Pride Board of Directors, Alex was named to sainthood by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and has been a “critical force” for LGBTQI groups like the SF LGBT Center, MyNameIs Coalition, SF Pride’s NECTAR/Women’s Stage, UNLEASH! Dance Party for Women, and Committee for Queer Justice. They also founded the KINGDOM! Drag King House to fundraise for the LGBTQI community. Alex, who lives in Berkeley and was raised in San Francisco, sat down with the San Francisco Examiner at Cafe Flore in the Castro District to speak about music, history and the LGBT struggle writ large.
How old were you when you first came out here? I was a young kid when I came here. When I became queer in The City, I was 23 — that’s where we can start. I went to Penn State first then I did a year [at San Francisco State] because I wanted to run track.
The black civil rights resistance was very strong at S.F. State. That’s right. Angela Davis was one of our key supporters.
Tell me about your coming-out story. It was easier because it was a city that opened their arms to queer people, and you knew where to go to feel comfortable. I played softball. I was a go-go dancer for many years for the queer clubs. For me, that was the way of learning my community and being accepted. And my political stuff came because of the color of my skin. Every day was a struggle. Some of these bars were very racist. They’d ask for three IDs. If it was hot, and I had sandals on that day, they’d say I had to change or I couldn’t come in here. This was gay white bars … it’s still like that. We had protests forever.
How would you say your drag king persona took shape? Alex U. Inn is Alex U. Inn. My drag name is Alex; I let you in. My given name is Carmen Alex Morrison … It has merged into one, now I feel like there’s no separation between Alex and between Carmen. That started happening five years ago. It was always what I wanted, but I didn’t feel it enough to express it. Alex has become very strong with the Momma’s Boyz, to take the lyrics to be more politically aligned. It wasn’t as highly political as it is now, but it was always political.
SEE RELATED: Street closures planned for SF Pride celebrations
How does it feel to perform your truth on stage, especially knowing it may be the first experience for some aspiring drag kings? Knowing it’s someone’s first time and knowing it’s their first experience is awesome. For the new ones who want to get on the stage, we have a new program with Kingdom. How to put a face on, how to identify yourself, what outfits to pick, how to pick the best song for your audience, things like that. We’re really fortunate our first year we got a grant from the Sisters [of Perpetual Indulgence]. It’s inspiring. With the Momma’s Boyz, we travel around the world and do live hip hop.
How much do you feel your lyrics need to entertain political protest? We changed our words for this administration. I don’t say his name, but we target what goes up against our community. We just came back from Sweden in September, the first drag kings to play in the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. It was unheard of, which was awesome. Canada, Mexico, many places throughout the United States. I performed in London.
You mentioned earlier you went to Washington, D.C., in January. What did it feel like going to the inauguration? I went there as a resistance. I went to the front area during his inauguration, and a couple of us chanted. To be there, with the march on Washington by women and their allies was incredible. Every single fiber in my body is affected by this administration — it affects everything I am.