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Published October 30 2010

Fargo performer victim of hate crime

The incident brought drag performer JustNtyme back to his school years.

When a man ripped the wig off his head and yelled a gay slur at him outside a downtown Fargo bar last weekend, the popular female impersonator said it reminded him of being bullied and beaten up while growing up in Fargo.

Back then, he said, “I didn’t even know I was gay. I couldn’t understand why everyone called me ‘faggot.’ I would think, ‘What do they see that I don’t see?’ I took it as a kid, but I refuse to do that again.”

JustNtyme, who asked that his legal name not be used to avoid future harassment, has filed a report with Fargo police. Sgt. Joe Anderson said there is “a person of interest” linked to the case, which is still under investigation. At this point, Anderson added, it is considered a misdemeanor offense.

JustNtyme said the offense isn’t simply about theft. “He ­didn’t just steal a wig. He stole so much more,” he said.

The drag artist said he is spending the week in New Orleans, trying to recuperate from the incident. He added that the attack has rattled him to the point where he needs to take a break from the stage.

When JustNtyme became a drag artist nine years ago, he was battling depression and struggling to find his place in the world. His drag act changed his life. “Portraying strong women made me the man I am today,” he said.

He later launched the Independent Artist Collective’s Fierce Drag Show, a popular show in the community.

On Oct. 22, JustNtyme had finished performing at a drag show in a Moorhead bar and then went to Dempsey’s Irish Pub on Broadway to unwind.

When the bar closed at 2 a.m., he joined a group of about 50 people standing outside on the sidewalk.

It was then that a young man dressed in a black hoodie ran by, snatched the $150, custom-made wig off his head, yelled “(expletive) faggot,” and ran north on Broadway.

JustNtyme said it happened so fast that he didn’t get a look at the assailant.

The drag performer reported feeling sharp pangs in his neck and back when it happened but couldn’t tell if the pain stemmed from the form-fitting wig being ripped off or if the man also hit him.

After being unable to sleep that night, JustNtyme said he decided to write about the attack on his Facebook page and to alert police.

The performer also has given police a screen shot of a Facebook exchange that brags about the incident. The exchange contains the comment: “You know it’s a good night when your friend rips a wig off a tranny and books it down Broadway.”

Kristen E. Benson, a local Gay Pride organizer, says the incident is more than a case of simple bullying.

“I do look at it as a hate crime,” said Benson, an NDSU assistant professor in family therapy. “It’s not about a person committing a crime against an individual, but it’s about creating a hostile environment for a community.”

The drag artist says he does plan to bring back his female alter-ego in the new year and has found great strength and comfort through the 200-plus positive messages he’s received on his Facebook page.

“I’m not going to quit,” he says. “I’m not going to let someone take that away from me.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525