LUMBERTON, NC (WBTW) — Two sold-out drag shows on Saturday marked a first for the city of Lumberton, and organizer Justin Herring said he struggled to put on the event.

“Growing up a queer boy in Robeson County, I didn’t really have a place to express myself,” Herring said. “I really wanted this to be a shining light on the LGBTQ+ community.”

Herring said he received death threats after announcing the event.

“All of a sudden when I announced the drag brunch, people were like, ‘I’m going to kill you for bringing this to our county.’ That’s not what we need,” Herring said.

Herring said he was under 24-hour police protection for two weeks before the event. Uniformed and plainclothes Lumberton police patrolled outside as patrons enjoyed the show at Top That Dessert Bar.

“I’m not trying to put anyone down, but Robeson County has a lot of catching up to do,” said Stacy Layne Matthews, the show’s headliner.

Matthews appeared in the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and grew up in Robeson County. She said she had been involved in drag shows at UNC Pembroke but never at Lumberton.

“It’s just going to open people’s eyes because there’s so much more out there than what they have here,” Matthews said.

Herring intends to hold similar shows once a month from now on. He said it was difficult for him to come out as gay due to his conservative Christian background, but he hopes to promote visibility and make this process easier for others.

“I think it was necessary. I think it was necessary,” Herring said. “I feel like today I gave someone the opportunity to be themselves in a world where they feel like they’re hidden away.”

An officer said Lumberton Police will continue to provide additional security at events if further threats arrive or if Herring requests the department’s presence.

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