Drag events have been protested, threatened 141 times in 2022

Drag Attacks Drag Protests

Approximately 141 protests and threats against drag events across 47 states have happened in the U.S. this year, according to research by GLAAD and Equality Texas.

These incidents happened during Pride celebrations and the midterm elections with “false rhetoric against performers deployed in campaign ads,” the research report said.

The analysis shows that violent rhetoric and incidents increased as 2022 progressed, including armed white supremacists demonstrating in Texas and the firebombing of a Tulsa, Oklahoma, donut shop that had hosted a drag event in October.

Equality Texas documented additional targeted events throughout the year, including an armed demonstration and confrontation in San Antonio.

Texas has the dubious distinction of leading the nation with 20 documented incidents.

North Carolina was next with 10, followed by Illinois with eight, Tennessee and California with six each, and Georgia with five.

No incidents were reported in three states — South Dakota, Rhode Island, and West Virginia — and the District of Columbia.

Some incidents may have taken place, but they weren’t covered by the media, the report said.

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The Nov. 19 mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado is not included in the total, even though the club had a drag performance that night, because a motive in the shooting has not been determined.

While many incidents were reported in smaller cities and towns in the South and Midwest, a number also took place in areas with larger LGBTQ populations and LGBTQ-inclusive communities, the report said. 

  • New York saw four protest incidents, three of which took place in New York City.
  • Events were also targeted in such major cities as Philadelphia, Memphis, Dallas, Cleveland, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.
  • In addition to the firebombing in Tulsa, the violent occurrences included armed protesters threatening events in Idaho, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Nevada.
  • In Eugene, Oregon, those who objected to a drag performance threw smoke bombs and rocks.
  • In South Carolina, there was a bomb threat against a restaurant hosting a drag brunch, along with threats to kill the performers.

Many of the protests and threats took place after right-wing media outlets, such as Fox News Channel and the Daily Wire, and social media accounts like Libs of TikTok circulated false information about drag events, GLAAD reports.

A Media Matters report in June found that Fox News had devoted more hours to targeting drag queens and transgender people than to coverage of the Jan. 6 insurrection hearings, according to the report.

A Media Matters analysis in November found that misinformation about drag had ramped up on Fox News and the Daily Wire in the weeks before the Tulsa firebombing, with Tucker Carlson falsely claiming that drag queens “want to sexualize children,” and the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh calling on police to “break down the doors of LGBTQ clubs and arrest drag queens.”

White supremacist groups including Proud Boys and Patriot Front were often involved in the actions against drag shows.

“When extremists protest library story time they are interrupting programming that encourages a healthy love of reading, simply because they hate the reader,” Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez said in a press release. “The same extremists and politicians who support them have actually failed to protect Texas children.

“Why are they not focused on guns in schools, our broken (child protective services) system, and any of the many other issues that demand our attention? A little glitter and heavy contouring never hurt anyone,” Martinez said. 

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said the attacks against drag events and performers “are part of a truly alarming trend of targeting LGBTQ people and youth through baseless legislation, vile rhetoric, school censorship, book bans and intimidation.

“Extremists are increasingly emboldened by reckless politicians who smear LGBTQ people and our allies,” Ellis said. “Their disinformation is spread widely by extremist accounts on social media and encourages violence. GLAAD urges the media to challenge politicians spreading false and harmful information about the LGBTQ community, and ask how they are working to ensure every citizen is safe.”

Here are a few of the incidents included in the report.

  • A bomb threat was emailed to a local news station in South Carolina, claiming several bombs were planted at a restaurant hosting drag brunch and threatening to kill performers and attendees.
  • About 50 members of the Proud Boys extremist group armed with long guns and in helmets, full face masks and flak jackets protested drag story hour at a church in Ohio. 
  • Neo-Nazis with swastikas and transphobic signs at a Pflugerville, Texas, restaurant hosting a drag brunch.
  • Armed protestors, raising hands in Nazi salutes, disrupt drag bingo fundraiser in Katy, Texas.
  • Alleged Proud Boys disrupt multiple LGBTQ-inclusive events in Arlington, Texas, blocking the sidewalk, falsely claiming attendees were “pedophiles.”
  • Extremist protesters with a history of recording and photographing children without consent protest drag performances at a restaurant in Houston.
  • San Antonio concert venue cancels upcoming drag shows for the year, citing threats against performers and staff.
  • In Eugene, Oregon, this October, protesters carried semiautomatic rifles and threw rocks and smoke bombs.
  • In the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove in September, a public library canceled a drag bingo event after receiving a threatening letter that included a bullet and the phrase “more to come.”  
  • In Memphis in September, local leaders said Proud Boys were among the armed protesters that showed up to a drag event at the Museum of Science and Industry, forcing the event’s last-minute cancellation.
  • In Sparks, Nevada, in June, children at the town library ran for safety from a Proud Boys protester carrying a gun.

In Couer d’Alene, Idaho, in June, police arrested 31 Patriot Front members who had traveled from ten different states armed with riot gear and smoke grenades to protest a Pride event that had been targeted by LibsOfTikTok online.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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