Well, this is awkward: Steve Wiles, a 34-year-old self-described "conservative Christian," is campaigning for the North Carolina state senate as an anti-gay Republican. Wiles is so anti-gay, in fact, that in 2012 he worked to pass the state's marriage discrimination amendment.
He's also a former drag queen named Mona Sinclair who performed at a nightclub in Winston-Salem.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports:
Wiles, 34, was in his early 20s when he worked at the now-defunct nightclub, Club Odyssey, according to co-owner Randy Duggins and former employee Gray Tomlinson. "He is Mona Sinclair," Duggins said, referring to Wiles' female persona.
Wiles' responses over the past three weeks have ranged from categorical denial to tacit admission. "I have already apologized to the people who matter most to me for the things I did when I was young," Wiles said this week, declining to clarify for what he has apologized. The comment was made in the last of three separate interviews. At first, Wiles denied the claim.
"That's not me," Wiles said three weeks ago, referring to Mona Sinclair. Wiles responded "no" when asked whether he was gay. This week, Wiles' campaign website, Facebook page and Twitter handle were taken down...
Duggins said he had no doubts. "I recognized his picture when I was looking in the paper. That's definitely him. He has aged some, but that's him," Duggins said. "I have no ax to grind against him. I just think he's a liar."
Duggins and Tomlinson say that Wiles identified as gay at the time they knew him. When Business Insider asked the candidate whether he now identifies as "ex-gay," he refused to comment.
Wiles was involved in gay drag-themed events as recently as 2011, when he was permanently expelled from the Miss Gay America pageant system for "conduct unbecoming to a promoter." Pageant organizers would not comment on the specifics of said conduct.
Blogger Joe Jervis reports that Wiles issued a statement yesterday on his Facebook page addressing the controversy. The text of Wiles's statement, along with a photograph of him posing with virulently homophobic U.S. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), is after the jump.