Fashion, comedy and equality. These are on the gay agenda of Atlanta lesbian Kia McCall Barnes. This one-time teacher left the classroom when she was outed to her employer by her insurance company. She then made a career change and is now a successful comedienne with shows lined up this Friday and Saturday night for Black Gay Pride weekend.
She spoke with the Georgia Voice about her interracial marriage, her activism for the LGBT community and her stand up homo-humor that makes people laugh, then leaves them to think.
The Georgia Voice: By the time we go to print, you will have just hosted a local fashion show for lesbians. How did your role come about?
Kia Comedy: Yes, I am hosting an event called “Dapper: The Andro (androgynous) Fashion Show”. Some friends and I were talking one day about fashion shows when it crossed our minds that there never seems to be anything to highlight clothing for androgynous lesbians. We decided to put it together. The designers are also members of the LGBTQ community and everyone involved is happy that it’s a community event. The response has been huge.
In addition to your comedy and dabbling in androgynous fashion, you’re also a human rights activist.
Yes. I’m going to participate in a symposium at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. My presentation, called “Queer Questions,” is about LGBTQ history, progress, issues that we still face, current legislation and action points that can be taken.
What do you see as the biggest issues facing the LGBTQ community right now?
The fact that we can be fired or face housing discrimination just for being gay here in Georgia is pretty concerning. We need to get involved in helping to pass ENDA to prevent workplace discrimination. Working somewhere and having to live in the closet can be terrifying. You know the light bill is coming at the end of the month so you live in fear of being found out and fired. When I was a teacher, I couldn’t speak out.
Tell your teacher story…
After gay marriage was legalized, I asked my insurance carrier if I could add my wife to my policy. They said if I wanted to add her, we’d have to get two separate policies which would have cost twice as much as adding her on my own. The insurance company said they could ask the school I taught at to see if they might accommodate. I said, “Don’t do that!” Because I taught at an inner-city African-American male charter school that was mostly black Muslims. I knew there would be trouble if the school found out.
They made the inquiry anyway. Immediately, I went from being department head, team lead and teacher of the month to where I could do no right. I had to go out on medical leave for stress and then resigned because it just got too crazy.
It ended up being a good thing for me. It freed up my time so that I could pursue my dream of being a comedienne and aggressively start touring with the support of my wife, Kenzie.
How did you meet your wife?
My wife is a die-hard WNBA fan and had court-side seats. I went to the games just to see the girls. I was up in the nosebleed section with the peons. We would see each other at the games but we never spoke. She ended up messaging me on social media and acted like she wanted to go play basketball with me. That was a lie. [laughs] But we developed a relationship from that and three years later, here we are still going strong. We got married in DC before the Supreme Court decided to give us a pinch of freedom. I’d also like to add that we are an interracial couple.
You have built quite a following for your comedy in Atlanta.
The Atlanta comedy scene is huge. As I started performing, I kept noticing that I was sitting through shows where half the jokes were making fun of gay people. I decided to join Queer Comedy Jam because they highlight LGBTQ comedians and entertainers. It’s great because we’re not the ones being joked about now.
Through my work with Queer Comedy Jam, I’ve built a network of LGBTQ comedians that help me tour more. Now, I’m going to their cities and bringing my show, Lez Laugh, to their city. The show that we’re doing in Atlanta (September 3rd) for Black Gay Pride is going to have the best LGBTQ comedians from all over the country.
Is your comedy mostly about gay things?
Mostly. When I tell my jokes, I address issues that affect us. I present it in a way where it’s funny, but it creates an awareness that although we can laugh about it, it’s a real issue that needs to be dealt with. For example, I tell the story about when my wife told her dad about us. She called him and said, “Dad, I have something to tell you.” He said, “Baby, I’ve been waiting for this a while. Just go ahead and say it.” She said, “I’m in love with a woman and we’re getting married.” He said, “Oh, thank God! I thought you were going to tell me you were dating black guys.”
People laugh at the event but then the issue is planted in their minds. Comedy is my disguise. I’m taking Lez Laugh all over the country. I’m proud to represent and entertain the LGBTQ community.
ATL Pride Weekend Comedy Show Friday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. Georgian Terrace Hotel
Queer Comedy Jam Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. The Metroplex Theater