Exposing the Hate - The Truth Behind Drag Protests

Looking through social media posts about the planned Drag show protest in Kelowna today I noticed quite a few people were unaware of why protesters are calling Drag performers and transgender people groomers and pedophiles. I decided to write a blog post to give some background. I attended the event to show solidarity with the queer community and see first-hand what all the fuss was about. I was expecting the police would need to be called.

A poster inviting people to join the protest showed up on a social media page under the name of Graeme Flannigan with the title "URGENT: Protest All Ages Drag Show for Children." Nowhere was it billed as being an event for children. 

The battle cry of this group is that these types of performances sexualize children. It is some of the same people and the same storyline used by those who organized to support Parents Voice BC school trustee candidates as they sought to end SOGI 123 in schools, a set of resources to help create safe and inclusive spaces for 2SLGBTQ+ students. They refer to members of the queer community and their allies as groomers and pedophiles. There's a lot more to this than a simple protest, and this wasn't the first one in the Okanagan. I'll get into that after I talk about the actual event.


Did the performance at the restaurant contain adult content? The event, produced by Rebellious Unicorns was advertised as "adult themed and minors must be with an adult." If you've been to a Drag show you know the language is often spicy. You also know that content is modified according to the audience. You will see quite a difference between a drag show at an adult-only venue such as a bar, vs Drag Storytime at a Library, or a show at a family restaurant. The organizers and owners of the establishment have left it up to the wisdom of the parents whether or not they wish to bring a child to this show. I attended the show and it was pretty tame compared to most other Drag shows I've been to. I noticed the performers being respectful of some kids who attended with their mom. These cute kids even brought their own signs and had their picture taken with the performers.

These kids brought their own counter-protest signs

"If these people really cared about children, they would be protesting the 215 children, or protesting the churches where sexual abuse happens," said Drag performer Ella Lamoreaux to loud applause from the sold-out room at the start of the show. (In May 2021, Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir announced that the remains of 215 children had been found near the city of Kamloops as part of a preliminary investigation at a residential school.)

Proud mom with her kids and the performers.
Photo Rebellious Unicorns

Kudos to Deb and Karyn at DunnEnzies for the community support and for creating a space for performances like this. I really appreciated their attention to everyone's safety at the event. 

What is behind these protests and the specific false claims about groomers, pedophiles, and the sexualization of children? This is an organized attack against the 2SLGBTQ+ community that started in about 2021. Its roots are in the USA where it has become a political weapon to target public education and the transgender community. The term pedophile has long been used as an attack on the gay community to create stigma and fear. Its resurgence has come about in a fight by extremists against marriage equality and transgender rights. It surfaced over so-called "bathroom bills" that sought to prevent transgender people from using washrooms that matched their gender identity with claims that it would allow pedophiles into women's washrooms, equating being transgender with pedophilia. 

The term groomer refers to someone who manipulates victims and coerces them to agree to abuse and thus reduce the risk of being apprehended. Sexual abuse is a criminal offense.

Protesters were being asked by a performer why they were there, outside DunnEnzies on Lakeshore Road on December 7th. The individual circled was seen assaulting a counter-protester who was standing in front of his sign. One of the protesters seemed agitated and was bouncing back and forth on his feet like he was itching for an altercation. The RCMP were called and interviewed the people involved. Some of the same individuals protested a Halloween party for queer youth in October.

The anti-2SLGBTQ+ crowd does not use the terms pedophile and groomer legitimately but has co-opted them for a weaponized attack on the community. These attacks gained global attention in 2022 in part by publicity surrounding the "Don't Say Gay" bill passed in Florida. Politicians and right-wing pundits have fanned the flames of this harmful rhetoric which has spread into Canada. Action4Canada, a nonprofit extremist organization in Canada is a big influencer of the events we have seen in the Okanagan such as the one on December 7th. Pamphlets associated with this organization were distributed in Kelowna during the October 2022 municipal election falsely claiming that teachers are showing students pornographic material. 

Content from the Action4Canada pamphlet on SOGI 123 distributed during the Kelowna 2022 municipal election

According to Action4Canada's website, "The LGBTQ have (sic) been hijacked by radical activists who are attacking the core freedoms and rights of all Canadians. The political activists are not interested in equal rights, diversity, or inclusion. Their objective is forced compliance and acceptance of their adult sexual proclivities and ideologies." Groups like this have always attempted to sexualize and demean the queer community, and to create stigma and hatred with the end goal of erasing us. They promote politicians who lean toward their extremist views (their ideology is backed by Judeo-Christian biblical principles) which is just another way of saying they want their hard-core beliefs to become part of the governing laws of the country. All this does is promote hatred which turns into violence and death. Violence against the queer community, and particularly transgender people is on the rise. We can look at the Pulse and Club Q tragedies as an example.

Counter-protestors at an event in Salmon Arm, October 2022
Photo Jessica Rae

I attended a Transgender Day of Remembrance last year in downtown Kelowna. This annual event remembers and honors the lives of transgender people who lost their lives during the year. There was no event this year and one of the people who organizes it said they didn't feel safe doing so due to the rise in these types of protests. I really hope that we can find a way to effectively create safe spaces for our community and that we don't have to experience violence before something is done. While I don't have all the answers as to how to counter the damage these anti-2SLGBTQ+ movements are doing, I do feel that educating the public and exposing their lies would be a good start.

If I had one question for the protesters what would it be? Since there is a lot of content that families may watch on TV that shows much more PG-rated content than I witnessed in the Drag show today, my question would be "Are you going to stand in front of every family home that has a TV with your protest signs, or how exactly do you intend to fully censor such content?" Like Ella said, it really isn't about the children. If you look at Action4Canada's website, this hate is what fuels their fundraising.


Comments

  1. Thank you for a great post. Scary that these protestors are growing louder and more active. It's sad that horrific movements in the US are getting bigger, too. 2SLGBTQ folks just want to live their lives without having to deal with unwarranted hatred.

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