GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is releasing new findings providing the first comprehensive count and analysis of increased threats, protests and violent action against drag events nationwide. 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.
Findings: GLAAD found 141 incidents in 2022 of anti-LGBTQ protests and threats targeting specific drag events, including during Pride festivities and false rhetoric against performers deployed in campaign ads for the midterm elections. The analysis shows increasingly violent rhetoric and incidents as the year progressed, including armed white supremacists demonstrating in Texas and the firebombing of a Tulsa 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.
Location: 2022 news reports cited incidents targeting drag events in 47 U.S. states, with the exclusion of South Dakota, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Washington, DC. It is possible that incidents did occur in those areas but they did not receive media coverage.
The states with the highest number of drag events targeted by protests and threats in 2022 were:
- 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. New York saw four protest incidents, three of which took place in New York City. Some of the more violent or threatening incidents took place in Eugene, Oregon; San Francisco suburbs, and Oklahoma’s capital, Tulsa. Events were also targeted in larger cities including New York, Philadelphia, Memphis, Dallas, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
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 found that Fox News had devoted more hours to targeting drag queens and transgender people than to coverage of the January 6th 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, LibsOfTikTok targeted the Couer D’Alene, Idaho ‘Pride In The Park’ (where 31 anti-LGBTQ protesters were arrested) 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 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, Oklahoma, 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 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, Oregon, this October, protesters carried semiautomatic rifles and threw rocks and smoke bombs.
- In the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, Illinois, 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, 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.
GLAAD reviewed legislative proposals in six states that aim to restrict or ban drag. In most 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, or ban minors from observing drag performers, including library events such as Drag Story Hour.
- In Tennessee this November, Sen. Jack Johnson filed a bill that aims to ban drag performance in public.
- In Texas, two bills were proposed in June and November. One proposal seeks to ban minors from attending drag story hours or similar events, and another would classify drag as a “sexually oriented business” on par with strip clubs.
- A federal bill introduced in October and backed by 30 House Republicans would ban drag shows at any federally-funded institution such as libraries and schools.
- Idaho news outlets reported in October that a bill banning drag in public would be introduced in the upcoming legislative session.
- In Michigan this June, lawmakers announced a plan to ban drag from schools despite no evidence of any drag events at Michigan schools.
- In Arizona, state senator Vincent Leach announced in June he and other Republican colleagues would attempt to ban minors from drag events.
- In Florida this June, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he would consider a proposal to ban minors from drag events. Later that month, he filed a complaint against a Miami restaurant that held an all-ages drag show.
[Note: after this report originally posted, Montana state representative Braxton Mitchell filed a proposal to ban minors from drag events—just three days after a mass shooting took place the night of a drag show in Colorado Springs. The original map graphic and totals have been updated to reflect the news.]
- 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
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.