The LGBTQ+ community is under threat. Being a true ally can save lives
by kendra arciniega
Photo: Chris Avessuk /
Featuring local drag artist Dela Rosa
The mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Florida did not happen in a vacuum. This tragedy, still vivid in our hearts, occurred in June of 2016; a devastating Pride month where instead of celebrating our community’s resiliency, we lost dozens of LGBTQ+ siblings and allies to gun violence. It was a sobering reminder that our sacred spaces are not safe. It was another tragedy where lawmakers offered ‘thoughts and prayers’ but nothing to keep us safe. The political climate grew more aggressive and firearm legislation never came. Fast forward to 2022 and the LGBTQ+ community is withstanding attacks and hostility more than ever. Recently, echoes of Pulse Nightclub rang through the nation as a gunman entered another queer nightclub, Club Q in Colorado, and stole the lives of 5 people. Had two bar patrons - an Army veteran and a transgender woman - not tackled the shooter, there would’ve likely been more casualties.
Attacks like Pulse Nightclub and Club Q are not lone wolf cases, nor can they be treated as matters of mental illness while we toss out all evidence of ramped-up neo-fascism and increased violent rhetoric towards LGBTQ+ people. Homophobia is a dangerous indoctrination, not a mental illness. Homophobia and hatred are not opinions; they’re sources of violence. Violence doesn’t always come as a mass casualty event. We’re subject to violence every time we dare to exist in public or create inclusive spaces - especially for queer youth and young allies who deserve community. All-ages drag shows are the latest target for violence across the country, presenting a staggering portrait of the Christofascism and domestic terrorism intersection. Like it or not, kid-friendly drag events DO exist. Drag is not inherently sexual, though some interpretations can be sexual - as with all other art forms. You’ve seen hypersexual performances by Lady Gaga and you’ve also seen her perform in elegant gowns alongside jazz legend Tony Bennett. Gaga also has a Muppets Holiday Spectacular. Artists can showcase their range across styles and audiences, and plenty of artists adapt to family-friendly settings. The ‘grooming’ narrative about all-ages drag shows is a sensational homophobic talking point meant to stoke fear and violence towards LGBTQ+ individuals and the most visible members of our community – drag performers.
According to a new report from GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), there have been at least 124 anti-drag protests and significant threats against drag events across 47 states in 2022. This report was published before a power grid was vandalized in North Carolina, allegedly with the intention of shutting down a drag show and therefore endangering more than 40,000 people with a week-long power outage. Drag queen story time was canceled in Ohio due to armed neo-Nazis, and another drag show was canceled in South Carolina due to a bomb threat. All these events happened after a newly issued domestic terrorism advisory from the Department of Homeland Security concerning heightened threats against the LGBTQ+ population.
Threat assessment isn’t new to queer people. There’s not a single queer space I enter where I’m not considering the worst-case scenario, sitting near exits, watching my back, and reviewing emergency plans with my wife. As a lesbian and producer of an inclusive drag show, the worst-case scenario is always on my mind. It terrifies me.
Allies and lawmakers, we’re begging you to step up for your LGBTQ+ community. We’re in danger and we’re tired. People consume the best parts of our queer culture, but many leave us to deal with the hard things alone. If you like drag shows, watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, or come to gay bars, we need you speak out to protect drag artists who are targets for violence. Have tough conversations at the dinner table and at church. You need to care about making the world safer for trans kids. Support us through advocacy and by being a no-fly zone for homophobic rhetoric. If you consume queer art and culture, you need to show up for us where it counts. Silence and inaction put you on the side of violence.
Kendra Arciniega is a community organizer and showrunner for Arciniega Street Productions follow @ArciniegaStreet for information on upcoming community events.
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