ST. LOUIS – Friends and family knew him as Michael Shreves, but most people knew him as the beloved Michelle McCausland, the legendary drag queen who graced almost every drag stage in the St. Louis region.
Shreves recently passed away at 61-years-of-age due to COVID-19 complications, but even in death, his friends, family, fans, and the LGBTQ say Shreves’ legacy lives on.
Michelle’s performances were electric, fiery, and bold. Most would even say unforgettable. She was a certified crowd-pleaser, but Michael’s biggest contributions to the LGBTQ community were done out of the spotlight.
From 1800 to the 1980s, St. Louis had an anti-masquerading ordinance. In 1984, Michelle was arrested during one of their drag performances. It was that moment that sparked them to change history.
“Police came in and did the undercover thing and used the anti-masquerading law and arrested Michelle and some others – through some behavior issues in there. They were charged with that crime. Michelle primarily said we aren’t going to take that anymore and fought back,” said Steven Brawley, founder of St. Louis History LGBTQ History Project.
The trail went all the way to the Supreme Court and was ruled unconstitutional in 1986, taking the anti-masquerading ordinance off the books forever.
Michelle was still performing up to September of this year. She started a mobile, socially-distanced show called Women on Wheels where they brought drag to nearby communities, businesses, and parties. Michael performed and helped fundraise to help with HIV and AIDS research, education, and recovery programs.
Chasity Valentino, a long-time friend of Michelle, said, “She has been a staple in our community. She is an icon. She is well-remembered and well-recognized as a former Miss Gay Missouri America who will forever be missed by our community.”
Brawley says the LGBTQ community in St. Louis will celebrate Michael Shreves’ life with an event when COVID numbers begin to decrease. He said Shreves’ death has made the pandemic feel more real to the LGBTQ community since it has affected one of their own, someone everyone knew and loved. Brawley is urging everyone to stay safe, sanitized, and healthy.