On your average Tuesday night out in Downtown Binghamton, you can choose from flip night at The Rat, trivia at The Colonial or karaoke at Tom & Marty’s. However, if you venture a few blocks down Court Street, you’ll find a weekly celebration that’s fit for a queen.
Welcome to Trash Tuesday, where everyone is welcome to, as local drag celebrity India Bombay would say, ‘Let their freak flag fly.’ After a day of serving up French-style cuisine, Tranquil Bar & Bistro on Pine Street becomes a hotspot for the drag community.
Hosted by Bombay, the weekly event offers a place for kings and queens to hang out, perform and interact with other members of the community. One by one, the entertainers will dance and lip-synch all around the restaurant. With drink specials, festive lights and the occasional flow performer, Trash Tuesday is a place that is as open and accepting as it is energetic.
And at the center of this energy is Bombay, who introduces each performer and brings her personality to the night. Lively and outspoken, she’s a queen that isn’t new to this game. That being said, she says the art of drag wasn’t always in her plan.
“I hated drag queens,” Bombay said. “I wanted nothing to do with them. I didn’t understand.”
But one fateful night in Downtown Binghamton changed all of that. Before getting involved with drag, Bombay, who when not in drag goes by Adam, recently came out to his friends. Bombay, then an 18-year-old Adam, was convinced to check out an event called Trash Thursday, held at the now closed Merlin’s Dance Club, Wine Bar and Lounge.
“I’d never been in a gay bar before,” Bombay said. “I’d never been around that many gay people before and let alone a drag queen.”
But then, Adam met Katrina, a queen who not only inspired his career, but much of the Binghamton drag scene in general.
“A giant ginger wig piled on her head, and I was like, ‘Oh, she’s kind of pretty,’” she said.
But Adam wasn’t as impressed by everyone, to which his friend challenged him to do better.
“So in the long run, a dare turned into a 15-[year]-long career as a drag queen in Binghamton,” Bombay said.
Still, to call it just a career is an understatement.
“[Drag] just helped me accept who I was, helped me become part of the community, discover a family,” Bombay said. “I’ve had friends come and go, and I’ve seen some amazing performers, had great friends die. I’ve seen drag queens getting beat up.”
Bombay says that when she first started out, drag wasn’t nearly as accepted as it is today.
“We were still very underground, you know, hide in the car when we were driving around so people didn’t see you,” she said.
But being under the radar did not mean they were unpopular.
“We used to pack Merlin’s out,” Bombay said. “You could barely get in the door.”
Eventually, the scene became more visible.
“I think we all just finally got tired of sneaking around,” Bombay said. “And then RuPaul started doing her ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’”
In October of 2015, Merlin’s Dance Club, Wine Bar and Lounge, closed. While it was not always called Merlin’s, the bar had served as a space for the community for 40 years.
Merlin’s was not the only LGBTQ bar in the area, however. Squiggy’s on 34 Chenango St. provides for the community.
“Squiggy’s still holds true as the oldest gay bar in the area, still providing a safe haven for gay and lesbian people in the tri-city area,” Bombay said.
Still, when Merlin’s closed, Bombay says that the drag scene died down for a bit.
“It kind of just petered out for a minute,” Bombay said. “We needed to do something with this talent.”
But as they say, when the Merlin’s door closes, another one opens.
“The focus was taken off the bar and geared more towards the community and the family aspect and the celebration of the LGBT community,” Bombay said.
She says that the local pride celebration opened the eyes of many community members.
“They’re like, ‘Oh, here’s these guys, normal guys, for the most part, that are incredible entertainers,’” Bombay said.
As of right now, Trash Tuesday is the most consistent drag show for these entertainers, but the community offers more if you know where to look.
“Type in India Bombay … my [Facebook] profile is public, and I always post when the events are happening,” Bombay said. “Social media man, that’s where it’s at.”
The community also offers opportunities for teenagers through the Identity LGBTQ+ Youth Center in Downtown Binghamton.
“They do shows for kids that are under 18,” Bombay said. “They’re good kids. Amazing performers.”
According to Bombay, there is always something going on, and she hopes to see more involvement from the Binghamton University community. She hopes to see interaction between the pride coalitions in the city of Binghamton and the University.
“There’s an amazing, untapped pool of potential at BU, not just performers, but people that could do great things for this town, this community,” Bombay said.
And at the end of the day, the community of drag is a vital aspect of it all.
“They’re like my family,” Bombay said. “These are the people that I spend time with, and I have been spending time with for all these years, in and out of drag, they’re my sisters. Sisters and brothers in arms. If I can’t count on anyone else I can count on them.”