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PSA: Don't grope your drag queen [VIDEO]

Just in time for Twin Cities Pride, a timeless message about keeping your hands to yourself.

Just in time for Twin Cities Pride, a timeless message about keeping your hands to yourself. Instagram

Justin Novak looked ready to slay something as a glammed-up version of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. That’s the fun of Flip Phone’s Disney Villain Drag Brunch at UNION Restaurant. Every sinister schemer from the animated films becomes a haughty, imperious, fabulous drag creation by performers like Novak.

Novak’s drag persona, Nocturna Leemission, shines the brightest when he lip syncs to thumping club hits. That’s just what he was doing that Sunday—strutting, collecting tips, embodying the character. Between makeup, wigs, costumes, and nails, it takes him about three hours to get a look just right.

That all came to a grinding halt when a woman reached out of the crowd and grabbed Novak from behind.

Immediately, Novak turned and told her to cut it out.

“I would appreciate it if you didn’t touch me,” he said.

He finished his number, then, when he came out later as Scar from The Lion King —if he’d gone out to the club and did a killer lip sync to "The Edge of Glory" by Lady Gaga instead of wrecking the "Pride Lands"—there was that same woman.

She was standing on the edge of the crowd, right where Novak was making his entrance. The music started. The crowd cheered. Novak took about three steps.

Then a hand reached straight for his crotch.

Novak spun around and started yelling at her: If she touched him again, she’d regret it. He told her to leave. Then he turned away and tried his best to switch back to performance mode. He’s seen many of his friends and fellow performers shut down after getting groped during a performance. It’s not something you can easily bounce back from.

When the music stopped, he headed directly over to the event staff and told them what happened. They apologized and immediately moved to escort the handsy patron out, but she and her friends had already gotten the message and left.

Novak says this kind of thing happens pretty regularly when he’s in drag. People seem to think they can do whatever they want to him because he’s wearing a costume. Walk up, cop a feel—ask “Is your butt real?” and “Where are your privates?”

Usually they’re not as aggressive as the woman at the Disney Villain Brunch, and up until that point, Novak had never reacted in such an explosive way. He wasn’t going to put up with this stranger trying to grab him when he’d already told her “no.”

“I don’t let that shit fly,” Novak said later when he posted video of the grope on Instagram. “Touching someone like the way I was touched is sexual harassment. I felt violated, disrespected, and embarrassed by this act.”

Novak says the reactions on the post have been overwhelmingly positive, but the fact is this kind of thing happens way too often.

“Especially with how much consent is talked about right now,” he says. The #metoo movement has underscored the importance of getting enthusiastic permission before touching someone. That doesn’t just go away because you put on a wig. Being in drag doesn’t permit people to forget that the performers aren’t just characters. They’re people.

“There is no excuse,” Novak says.