By Johnny Trlica
Commentary: Michael Jackson, R. Kelly and Houston drag performer Tatiana Mala Nina have at least one thing in common. All three have either been convicted or accused of inappropriate acts with or sexually molesting underage children.
They also have another thing in common — family, friends and fans who enabled their behavior. The recent release of Leaving Neverland and Surviving R. Kelly shed new light on the alleged pedophilia of the singing superstars.
Jackson faced and was acquitted of charges during his lifetime and the current documentary presents new accusations from new accusers. R. Kelley faces new charges of sexual abuse of women and girls while older charges, like Jackson’s, go back 20 years. In both cases, family, friends, and fans of the two stars rabidly deny any wrongdoing by the two men, even when presented with strong incriminating evidence.
Houston drag performer Tatiana Mala Nina has been a participant in Drag Queen Storytime in 2018. The program, sponsored by the Houston Public Library, has drawn criticism from a right-wing group called Mass Resistance who has called for its cancellation, making inflammatory claims against the event and its performers. (Insert all of the usual derogatory remarks about drag queens here.)
According to a report by KHOU-TV, “Mass Resistance claims it had been asking the City of Houston for months to disclose information about the drag queens, and when requests went unanswered, they did their own digging and made the shocking link.” The link is that HPL has been allowing the performers to read to and be around children without completing background checks.
If a thorough background check had been completed it would have revealed that Tatiana Mala Nina, AKA Albert Garza, is a registered sex offender, convicted in 2008 of sexually assaulting an eight year-old boy.
Houston Public Library issued this statement: “We were made aware today that one participant for Drag Queen Storytime who read at the September 29, 2018, Drag Queen Storytime has a criminal background that should have prevented him from participating in the program. Every program sponsored by HPL is supervised by HPL staff, and all children are accompanied by a parent and/or guardian. No participant is ever alone with children, and we have not received any complaints about any inappropriate behavior by participants at storytimes.”
The library stated that Garza will not be participating in future events. While that is commendable, there needs to be accountability. This oversight or incompetence has given closed minded and intrusive people the ammunition they needed to get this program nixed. Trying so hard to be inclusive, the library missed a basic step like a simple background check.
Did Tatiana Mala Nina’s co-stars at Drag Queen Storytime know about her past and not tell? If so, they should have felt a moral obligation to inform the Houston Public Library. By not doing so they have placed the entire program at risk.
What about Hamburger Mary’s? Tatiana Mala Nina has performed at the drag queen venue as a featured artist sharing the stage with the likes of show director, Lady Shamu.
Open-minded parents frequently bring their children to the restaurant’s performances. Should they have the right to know that one of the entertainers working the floor gathering tips along the way is a convicted sex offender? Anyone who has been to a drag show in the last 20 years know the performers spend 90 percent of their time mixing and mingling in the audience, frequently physically interacting with patrons. Parents and child guardians should know if the performers engaging their children are convicted child predators.
Did Tatiana Mala Nina fail to inform her employer that there could be a problem with her performances to audiences that include children? Did her co-stars at Hamburger Mary’s know about her past and not tell? If so, they should have felt a moral obligation to inform the management at Hamburger Mary’s about Garza’s criminal record. An employer is entitled to that sort of disclosure, especially if their clientele includes children.
Convicted felons have the right to make an honest living once their obligation to society has been served. Garza’s sex registry lists him as a moderate risk who must register for life. While his intentions may have been admirable, he has brought disgrace to the industry he apparently loves and placed at risk a program so important to advancing LGBTQ equality.
And like family, friends, and fans of Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, and too many others, hard as it may be, sometimes we have to admit that the people we love and admire have done bad things. Ignoring or denying the obvious does no one any good.
Houston Rainbow Herald reached out for comment to Lady Shamu, show director at Hamburger Mary’s, but did not receive a reply by press time.