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Nashville renames street for a drag queen who raised a million dollars for HIV research

Bianca Paige Way
Posted at 5:32 PM, Jun 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-26 19:13:25-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville has renamed several streets after noteworthy citizens over the years, but a dedication Saturday afternoon may have made history across the country.

City leaders officially unveiled the new street name for Carney Street -- Bianca Paige Way -- that will take drivers past Middleton's favorite club. "After the show, we always came to Trax. It was like our neighborhood bar," said Sanford.

It's recognition, not only significant to Nashville, but to all who considered Bianca royalty. "We’re going to keep checking on this, but we think it’s true -- this is the very first street named after a Drag Queen in the entire country," Mayor Cooper said to big applause.

"We didn’t even imagine we’d get it done, let alone to be the first one and to do it here in Nashville," said Sanford.

Bianca Paige was the performance name of Mark Middleton, who graced many a stage as a drag queen around Nashville for years. But it was what Mark did with his notoriety that made him a hero to many.

"This is amazing, I mean, I don’t want to get emotional," said a teary Ron Sanford, a friend of Middleton. "Mark was the very first person to come out as an entertainer on stage to say -- I’m positive. I’m HIV positive and you need to get checked, you need to get tested."

After his diagnosis, Middleton would raise funds for HIV/AIDs research, all from tip money. "One dollar at a time, because he would do his number at the end of each night and people would tip him," said Sanford.

A few dollars turned into more than a million, before Mark's death in 2010. "So when we lost Mark 11 years ago, Nashville became a little less colorful and a lot less raucous," said Mayor John Cooper, during a dedication ceremony Saturday.

Long before the street renaming, Bianca Paige Day has been a celebration every June during Pride festivities.