Colorado shooting takes top drag queens on tour with armed guards and metal detectors

The deadly attack at an LGBTQ club in Colorado last month, where a shooter turned the venue’s «Drag Divas» night into a massacre, has worsened an already harrowing year for drag performers. Eight of the country’s top drag queens told NBC News that the current environment has subdued their larger-than-life personalities, prompting four of them to increase security at their events in recent weeks.

The November 19 shooting at Colorado Springs’ only LGBTQ nightclub, Club Q, left five people dead and 17 others shot. The 22-year-old suspect is being held without bail on suspicion of murder and hate crimes, though authorities have not shared a motive.

This attack comes on the heels of widespread anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, more than 100 protests and threats directed at drag events, and several novel laws seeking to restrict drag performances.

Drag queen Jinkx Monzon.curtis brown

“We try to smile and make people happy for the holidays, and in the back of our heads we’re like, ‘I hope I don’t get shot,’” said Jinkx Monsoon, winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” the fifth season and the seventh season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars”.

Monsoon, who will make his Broadway debut in «Chicago» next year, said he had been using metal detectors and creating escape routes for his US events in recent months. However, since the shooting at Club Q, he has hired armed guards and has begun to prohibit re-entry after the start of his performances.

Drag superstar Alaska Thunderf— 5000, winner of the second season of «RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars» and co-host of the popular drag podcast «Race Chaser,» said that in the days after the Club Q shooting, he sat down with his staff to plot escape routes for each remaining spot on their current national tour.

Alaskan drag queen.
Alaskan drag queen.Ken Phillips Group

At a couple of their concerts this week, police patrol cars have It has been parked on the block of places, he added.

“It’s galling that we even have to think about these things for something as light-hearted and festive as a drag show,” Alaska said. “Why do we have to worry about where the exits are and where is a safe route to get to a safe place? It’s scary, but that’s the reality.»

Fanatical rhetoric and violence

The Q Club shooting, while the highest profile and deadliest attack to hit the LGBTQ community this year, followed a series of attacks on the queer community, particularly transgender people and drag performers (many of whom were who identify as gay men or trans women offstage). .

For months, many right-wing lawmakers, media personalities, and activists have accused LGBTQ people, and drag performers in particular, of «grooming,» «indoctrinate» and «sexualizing» children.

The word “grooming” has long been associated with mischaracterizing LGBTQ people, particularly gay men and transgender women, as child sexual abusers, and advocates recently warned that its resurgence could lead to violence in The real world.

The day after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed into law the Parents’ Rights in Education Act, or what critics have called the «Don’t Say Gay» bill, the word «grooming» was mentioned on Twitter nearly 8,000 times, compared with just 40 times on the first day of this year, according to Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyber ​​Law Clinic.

Even in the days after the Colorado Springs shooting, some right-wing figures doubled down on the rhetoric.

Last week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson joined the leader of Gays Against Groomers, a self-described «coalition of gays against the sexualization, indoctrination and medicalization of children.» who said that the shootings would continue to occur «until we end this evil agenda that is targeting children.» Neither a representative for Fox News nor Gays Against Groomers immediately responded to NBC News’ requests for comment.

Monsoon told NBC News that online trolls have inundated two of his old music videos in the past two weeks with derogatory comments accusing the drag queens of sexualizing children. The music videos featured teenage actors and hired children, innocently dancing and attending a backyard birthday party.

“Because they can’t call us ‘queers,’ because we have enough support behind us, they call us ‘barbers’ and ‘pedophiles’ instead,” Monsoon said.

Aside from the rise in rhetoric laced with tropes, LGBTQ Americans have also been subjected to threats or acts of violence.

A report published by the LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD days after the Q Club shooting, it was found that drag events have faced at least 124 significant protests and threats in 47 states so far this year. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, a donut shop was torn apart and bombarded by a Molotov cocktail in two separate incidents after he hosted a drag event in October, according to NBC affiliates KFOR and KJRH in Oklahoma.

Drag Queen Yvie Strangely.
Drag Queen Yvie Strangely.Stephen Sparco/Voss Events

Yvie Oddly, the winner of «RuPaul’s Drag Race» season 11, said her management company sent her and other drag performers an email Tuesday, saying they had requested additional security staff at their shows and that teams Security would check customers for weapons.

“It is unfortunate that the world has come to this, but your safety and the safety of the communities you visit is the priority,” reads the email, which Oddly shared with NBC News.

On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security in a terrorism advisory bulletin expressed concern about potential threats to LGBTQ, Jewish and migrant communities from violent extremists inside the US. The bulletin said that some extremists have inspired by recent attacks, including the Colorado Springs shooting.

An ancient art form meets new opponents

Drag has been an art form since at least the 16th century, and in its modern form, with individual performers building their own fan bases, since the early 20th century. However, the art form has recently become the center of the latest American culture war.

Latrice Royale, who has appeared on both «RuPaul’s Drag Race» and «RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,» reasoned that the backlash stems from the increased visibility of resistance brought about by the worldwide success of RuPaul-led competition shows. , which have spin-offs in at least 16 other countries. Since its release in 2009, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has become a global phenomenon, lending mainstream legitimacy to a nightclub art form and transforming small-town performers into global celebrities.

Image: Latrice Royale.
Latrice Royale.brochure photo

“Back in the day, before drag was so mainstream and on all the TV channels and all the media and during the day, we were underground,” said Royale, 50, who has been doing drag for more than 30 years. . “Everything happened at night, in discos, at dawn. It was not accessible to the mainstream of the world.”

Drag’s move from queer nightclubs to prime-time television brought, along with its over-the-top characters and costumes, legions of new fans, including children.

Drag performers who have organized events for children, such as Drag Story Hours at public libraries or drag luncheons for families, have particularly drawn the ire of conservative protesters.

“I don’t like parents bringing their children to meet me, because I don’t want them to see me with a child, because I don’t want to be labeled a pedophile,” Monsoon said. “You start to mistrust yourself for the simple reason that this language is constantly applied to you. It’s dehumanizing. It makes you feel crazy to be yourself.»

So far this year, at least eight bills have been proposed that seek to restrict trawling, according to GLAD. Last month, for example, a bill was introduced in Tennessee that would prohibit drag queens from performing on public or private property in the presence of a minor. If signed into law, repeat offenders would be charged with a felony and could face up to six years in prison.

At least two members of Congress, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia Y Lauren Boebert from Colorado, have spoken out against children participating in drag shows, with Greene saying, in part, «It should be illegal to bring children to drag queen shows.» Neither Greene nor Boebert immediately responded to NBC News’ requests for comment.

Image: Shea Coulee
Shea Coulee.brochure photo

The eight drag queens who spoke to NBC News agreed that not all drag performances are appropriate for minors, just as not all TV shows or movies are intended for children. These performers said that when their shows incorporate adult material, they include parental advisory warnings on their tickets and show advertisements. However, they added that just because not all drag is appropriate for children doesn’t mean it should be banned outright or face draconian restrictions.

“People need to look at us like they look at any other profession or art form,” Oddly said. “There are some things that aren’t going to get done for young people, but that doesn’t mean all of us are out here, like people seem to think we are, trying to ‘convert’ or ‘groom’ or whatever.”

Despite the challenges for the drag industry in recent months, Shea Couleé, who won the fifth season of «RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,» warned young performers not to live in fear.

“You can’t get rid of a b—- who isn’t afraid of you,” Couleé said. “I might get a disapproving look, but the moment I meet their eyes and make eye contact, who do you think is the first to look at the ground? To them.»

BenDeLaCreme, who appeared on the sixth season of «RuPaul’s Drag Race» and the third season of «RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,» shared a similar sentiment.

“Young people, people starting out, need to know that they are a proud part of the tradition and lineage that is about visibility and aggressively being yourself despite all the odds and whatever they tell you,” he said. BenDeLaCreme. «Don’t let any of this push you back into a closet or stop you from fully being who you are.»