GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is updating findings to the first comprehensive count and analysis of increased threats, protests and violent action against drag events nationwide. An additional 20 incidents were documented in 2023 as of March 31st, according to data gathered by GLAAD in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
GLAAD found 161 incidents of anti-LGBTQ protests and threats targeting drag events since early 2022, with a sharp uptick beginning in Pride season 2022 and continuing through the midterm election cycle. False rhetoric was deployed against performers in campaign ads for the 2022 midterm elections, and rhetoric escalated to violence including the firebombing of a Tulsa donut shop that had hosted a drag event in October 2022. Equality Texas documented additional targeted events throughout the year, including an armed demonstration and confrontation in San Antonio.
Participation in anti-drag incidents in 2023 has included the Proud Boys, white supremacists, and religious extremists. ADL has tracked at least seven events where members of known extremist groups showed up.
- 03/26/23—Indianapolis, IN—Indy Reads bookstore temporarily closed following a bomb threat targeted the store’s monthly Drag Story Hour. LINK
- 03/26/23—Louisville, KY—Protestors and a bomb threat targeting a Drag Queen Story Time show forced the evacuation of a building. The same event faced online threats from a neo-Nazi group. LINK
- 03/24/23—Chesterland, OH—The Community Church of Chesterland, which plans to host a Drag Story Hour next Saturday, said its sign and building were vandalized by molotov cocktails Friday night, and that Proud Boys were sending online notices encouraging protests. LINK
- 03/22/23—Prestonburg, KY—An all-ages drag show was canceled after organizers and supporters said they faced online threats of armed protest. LINK
- 03/22/23—Tuscon, AZ—Bookmans Northwest location postponed its Drag Story Hour after a campaign by The Bridge Christian Church to get the event canceled; the Proud Boys offered the church “extra security.” LINK
- 03/11/23—Wadsworth, OH—Protest at “Rock-n-Roll Humanist Drag Queen Story Hour” in Memorial Park. Two people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after melees involving pepper spray, the violent use of a flag pole as a weapon, and a protester who pointed an object that looks like a gun at a crowd. LINK.
- 03/09/23—New York City—Anti-drag panel discussion at a New York Young Republican Club event featuring Roger Stone and Red Scare podcast hosts Dasha Nekrasova and Anna Khachiyan. LINK
- 03/08/23—Royal Oak, MI—A small protest over Drag Queen Story Hour being held at the lesbian-owned Sidetrack Bookshop was met with a significantly larger group of pro-equality counter protesters. LINK
- 02/25/23—Lakewood, TX—Anti-LGBTQ protesters gathered outside a drag queen brunch at BuzzBrews. The groups held signs reading “stop grooming children,” “defend traditional values,” and “drag the queens out of town.” LINK.
- 02/24/23—New York, NY—Anti-LGBTQ protesters showed up at Jackson Heights Library to disrupt a Drag Story Hour event. LINK.
- 02/22/23—New York, NY—Anti-LGBTQ protesters assembled outside of the Queens Public Library to disrupt a Drag Story Hour event. LINK.
- 02/19/23—Tempe, AZ—A coffee shop closed down after receiving a bomb threat during their Drag Queen Story Hour. LGBTQ-owned Brick Road Coffee was the target of heavy online harassment after the event caught the attention of the Proud Boys. The bomb threat was sent over the internet. Police confirmed Proud Boys were “in the area” at the time of the event. LINK
- 02/18/23—Silver Spring, MD—A drag queen story hour at Loyalty Books was targeted by members of the far-right group the Proud Boys. Protesters reportedly used anti-LGBTQ slurs, including false allegations of grooming, and “graphic accusations.” LINK
- 02/03/23—Orlando, FL— Florida Gov. DeSantis’s administration filed a complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation over a showing of Nina West’s “A Drag Queen Christmas” in December 2022. The complaint alleges that the show violated state law for allowing a person to “commit lewd or lascivious exhibition” in the presence of a minor and seeks to revoke the foundation’s liquor license. LINK
- 01/31/23—St. Louis, MO—Urban Fort, a play place for children with a cafe for adults has rescheduled and relocated its book reading event for kids with Drag performers due to death threats. LINK
- 01/28/23—Princeton, TX—Texas Family Project protests drag show at Deffibaugh Community Center. LINK
- 01/21/23—Cokeville, TN—Extremists in white masks stood across from Hix Farm Brewery, held a Nazi flag, and chanted homophobic slurs. They carried signs, reading “Why do they want an audience of children?”—despite the event being open only to those 18 years of age or older. LINK.
- 01/20/23—Salt Lake City, UT—Proud Boy members protest an all-ages drag show outside Tea Zaanti, a local wine and tea shop. LINK
- 01/14/23—Taunton, MA—People in masks protested outside and inside the Taunton Public Library at a Drag Queen Story Hour. LINK
- 01/14/23—Dallas, TX—Protect Texas Kids (PTK) protested outside a BuzzBrews Kitchen’s Lakewood location drag show. LINK
Anti-Drag Legislation 2023
GLAAD is tracking legislative proposals in 14 states (as of April 2023) that aim to restrict or ban drag, including Tennessee’s SB0003 which has been signed into law (it’s currently under a temporary restraining order by a U.S. federal judge). In many cases, extremist politicians pointed to local drag events as the motivation for new legislation that would ban public drag performances such as those that take place at Pride festivals, ban minors from observing drag performers, including library events such as Drag Story Hour, or reclassify venues that host drag performances as “adult” or “adult cabaret” venues.
- SB201—Would ban the expenditure of state moneys for the production or performance of drag shows for which minors are the primary audience.
- SB115—Would reclassify any establishment that hosts drag shows as an “adult-oriented business,” and would ban them within a thousand feet of schools, parks, or homes.
- HB359—Would prohibit minors from attending drag shows
- KB371—Would prohibit an individual under nineteen years of age or under twenty-one years of age from being present at a drag show as prescribed
- WEST VIRGINIA
- HB3176—Would prohibit drag shows from being performed in front of minors and to prohibit people from dressing in drag when reading aloud during story time in schools.
The 2022 analysis found here included states with the highest number of drag events targeted by protests and threats:
- Texas (20)
- North Carolina (10)
- Illinois (8)
- Tennessee (6)
- California (6)
- Georgia (5)
While many of the incidents were reported in smaller cities and towns in the South and Midwest, a number also took place in areas with higher LGBTQ populations and LGBTQ-inclusive communities.
A number of the drag events targeted by threats and protests in person were first targeted by right-wing media outlets like Fox News and the Daily Wire, and social media accounts like LibsOfTikTok. The outlets and accounts often misrepresented what would occur at upcoming drag events, spinning them as harmful to children, and protests or threats would follow. A Media Matters report from June 2022 found that Fox News had devoted more hours to targeting drag queens and transgender people than to coverage of the January 6 insurrection hearings.
A Media Matters analysis in November found that disturbing 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. Sometimes the targeting came full-circle, with right-wing media hyping up negative attention ahead of an event and continuing afterward. In June 2022, LibsOfTikTok targeted the Couer D’Alene, Idaho “Pride In The Park” (where 31 anti-LGBTQ protesters were arrested, see tweet below) ahead of the event, saying that a “family friendly drag dance party” was being promoted by the Idaho Satanic Temple. Afterward, the account shared a doctored video of a drag performer that spread misinformation and falsely alleged indecent exposure during the performance, which led the drag performer to file a lawsuit in September. The LibsOfTikTok account was briefly suspended by Twitter in September after news reports connected its posts to bomb threats made against children’s hospitals that provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth, but the account was reinstated.
A number of 2022 incidents involved violence or weapons. Extremist groups like the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, and local white supremacist chapters were involved in several incidents.
- In Tulsa, OK, this October, security video captured a person smashing the windows of a donut shop before lighting a Molotov cocktail and firebombing the storefront.
- 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, TX, restaurant hosting a drag brunch.
- Armed protestors, raising hands in Nazi salutes, disrupt a drag bingo fundraiser in Katy, TX.
- Alleged Proud Boys disrupt multiple LGBTQ-inclusive events in Arlington, TX, 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, OR, this October, protesters carried semiautomatic rifles and threw rocks and smoke bombs.
- In the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, IL, 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, Tennessee, 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, NV, in June, children at the town library ran for safety from a Proud Boys protester carrying a gun.
- In Couer d’Alene, ID, 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.
- GLAAD’s 2022 Social Media Safety Index (SMSI)
- GLAAD’s Guide for Media Covering State Legislation Targeting LGBTQ People
- GLAAD Media Reference Guide
- GLAAD’s Guide for Media Covering Book Bans and Anti-LGBTQ School Policy
- GLAAD’s Call to Support Drag
Methodology: GLAAD reviewed news reports in all 50 states, plus U.S. military bases, for protests that explicitly targeted drag events and for drag events that had faced cancellation or rescheduling due to threats or severe criticism. Because news reports were used as the sole source of tracking incidents, it is likely that even more incidents occurred that did not receive media coverage. The mass shooting that occurred in Colorado Springs, CO on November 19th was not included at the time of publishing as the attacker’s motive had not yet been formally declared. The full list of events is available to journalists on request.