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Liberal Tolerance and Inclusiveness: Cis Drag Queens Banned from Pride Event Because They Offend Transgenders

freak The organizers of Free Pride Glasgow in Scotland have hit a snag in their mission to plan a totally inclusive event: Some activists think drag queens are offensive to transgender people, others think banning drag queens is offensive to transgender drag queens, and still others think allowing only transgender drag queens is offensive to cisgender drag queens. [1]  In short everyone is offended and everyone want to “exclude” everybody else.  The ban has rocked the LGBT community and spun into in-fighting between advocacy groups. [2] Although drag performances had been part of Free Pride Glasgow for years, the event organizers announced in a statement on Saturday that they would not be allowing them this year because some transgender individuals found “some drag performance, particularly cis drag,” to be offensive because it “hinges on the social view of gender and making it into a joke.”  [1] [3] The statement reads in part:

After much discussion, the trans and non binary caucus decided not to have drag acts perform at the event.  The decision was taken by transgender individuals who were uncomfortable with having drag performances at the event. It was felt that it would make some of those who were transgender or questioning their gender uncomfortable. It was felt by the group within the Trans/Non Binary Caucus that some drag performance, particularly cis drag, hinges on the social view of gender and making it into a joke, however transgender individuals do not feel as though their gender identity is a joke. This can particularly difficult for those who are not out and still present as the gender they were assigned at birth.  While it was discussed whether we could have trans drag acts perform, it was agreed that as it would not be appropriate to ask any prospective drag acts whether or not they identified as trans. It was therefore decided that having no drag acts perform would be the best option as it would mean no-one would feel pressured to out themselves. This also adheres to our Safer Spaces Policy, where we ask that no-one assume anyone else’s gender identity, and to always ask people’s pronouns.

Though Free Glasgow Pride organizers have clarified that drag queens are welcome as attendees and that “there will be no policing of peoples gender identity,” the decision has enraged many including longtime RuPaul’s Drag Race judge and die-hard ally Michelle Visage. [5]


Irish drag legend Panti Bliss joined supporters on Twitter in condemning Free Glasgow Pride for the decision:


Angry-Drag-QueenAs you can see, it sparked instant outrage. Facebook and Twitter users condemned the hypocrisy of a policy of exclusion at a day dedicated to the opposite. [2]  Pride Glasgow, the main organizer of the weekend, was quick to distance itself from the ban. “We can understand the actions behind Free Pride over the banning of Drag Performers but believe this action to be wrong and going against what an inclusive event should be about,” it said in a statement. [2]  The social media backlash was swift and ruthless.  RuPaul’s Drag Race performer Michelle Visage wrote a fury of tweets against the decision. “WHO. THE HELL. BANS DRAG QUEENS FROM GAY PRIDE? THE VERY BACKBONE OF THE PRIDE CELEBRATIONS? hello, ever heard of THE STONEWALL RIOTS?!!!” she wrote, getting hundreds of retweets. [2] On that same note, Gay Star News points out that Drag queens were some of the first arrests at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, when the scene burst into riots and, eventually, helped pave the way for the modern gay rights movement.  [17] More precisely it’s New York City drag queen Marsha P. Johnson who’s credited with launching the modern-day LGBT rights movement by starting the 1969 Stonewall Riots. [17] Their boldness in dress helped make a pocket of the community mainstream, most famously in the 1990 classic about drag houses Paris is Burning and now in shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race. [2]


tranny-prideIn the original statement, the organizers maintained that since they felt it would “not be appropriate to ask any prospective drag acts whether or not they identified as trans,” they would just cancel drag performances altogether. You know, just to make sure that no one would be uncomfortable. One problem: The attempt at appeasing transgender people who are offended by drag performers wound up offending transgender people who are drag performers. [1] Whoops. So, the group changed its policy again: “After a further consultation, trans drag performers will be invited to perform at Free Pride on the 22nd August,” read a post on the group’s Facebook page on Monday. “The trans caucus and Free Pride as a whole thought protecting the privacy of trans drag performers was the most important thing, but trans drag performers have let us know that letting them perform is more important to them,” it continued. [1]


fauxnique-paper_yell-sm-fontaine_weymanAll good? Not even. People are offended by this policy, too, because — you guessed it! — it’s not inclusive to the drag performers who do not identify as trans. The group’s Facebook page has been flooded with comments expressing disgust at the updated policy: “You apologise to the trans drag performers you have insulted but are still blind to the cis performers who you have equally insulted,” said commenter Michael Harry Rosner. [1] “Great idea! Let’s be inclusive via the medium of discrimination,” said Boris Atlas. [1] Some even went so far as to accuse the group of breaking the law: “The Equality Act 2010 states you cannot discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sex,” Matt Cormack wrote. “If you are hiring performers you cannot refuse to hire them because of they are cis. You can ask to see their routine before hiring them to remove anyone offensive (I would fully support that) but this is going against all the progressive work LGBT people have fought for for decades.” [1] On Wednesday night, Free Pride accepted the criticism and offered a mea culpa. “Free Pride now welcomes drag performers of all genders and gender identities,” the organization said in a statement. “Drag is an art form, a form of expression and performance, a community with a rich history. The most useful comments and advice that we have been sent from around the world have been from trans people of color and working class trans people who support drag and have let us know that, without it, they might not have had access to trans/queer culture at all.” [2]


dragqueenIn fact, Free Pride Glasgow’s attempt at making sure the event was completely free of anything offensive wound up offending some people so much that they’re calling on everyone to boycott it altogether. [1]  Facebook page Boycott Free Pride and a Change.org petition sought to pressure the host venue to kick out the event. [2]  Ironically, the Free Pride event was started to welcome those who felt marginalized by the mainstream pride event that takes place in Glasgow annually.  The main weekend festivities had become “de-radicalized,” an organizer of Free Pride told the Evening Times last week.  By staging a cost-free party at the same time, the event hoped to send a reminder about the nuanced issues within the LGBTQ community—from class and race to disability awareness. [2] Interestingly enough, it seems like it’s impossible to create a situation where you can guarantee that no one will feel offended or uncomfortable. [1]


[1] Katherine Timpf, Cis Drag Queens Banned from Pride Event Because They Might Offend Trans People, National Review,  July 20, 2015 2:25 PM
[2] Nina Strochlic, Drag Queens Banned From Pride Event for Offending Trans People, The Daily Beast, 07.23.151:00 PM ET
[3] Blake Neff, Gay Pride Event Bans Drag Because It Offends Transgendered, The Daily Caller, 10:32 AM 07/21/2015
[5] Matthew Tharrett, Scotish Pride Event Bans Drag Queens To Avoid Offending Trans People, New Now Next, July 20, 2015
[6] Hannah Al-Othman, Drag queens banned from Pride event ‘because they may offend transgender people’, London Evening Standard,  20 July 2015
[7] Harry Readhead, Pride event bans drag queens performing because ‘they might cause offence’, Metro.co.uk, Monday 20 Jul 2015 1:08 pm
[8] Sarah Ann Harris, Drag Queens Banned From Free Pride Glasgow Event Over Fears Of Offending Transgender People, The Huffington Post UK, 21/07/2015 13:02 BST
[11] Nick Duffy, Pride event overturns ban on drag queens… but only if they’re trans, Pink News, 21st July 2015, 5:04 PM
[13] Daniel Villarreal, Should We Ban Drag Queens From Pride Because They’re Misogynist And Transphobic?, Queerty, Jun 23, 2011
[14] Pride event bans Drag Queens in case they offend, The Gay UK, Jul 20 2015 12:08PM
[15] Liberal World: Drag Queens Banned From Gay Pride Event As They Might Offend Transgenders, Before it’s News, Tuesday, July 21, 2015 7:46
[16] TIMOTHY RAWLES, Drag performers might be offending the trans community, SDGLN, July 20th, 2015
[18] STUART MacDONALD, Glasgow gay pride march’s U-turn on drag queen ban, The Scotsman, 14:13 Thursday 23 July 2015
[19] Hannah Rodger, Free Pride U-turns on drag decision after coming under fire, Evening Times, Tuesday 21 July 2015
[20] Miss CJ, Drag Queens Not Allowed In Pride Parade Because Transgender People Might Get Upset About It, Chicks on the Right, Thursday, 07/23/2015 – 11:00 am EST
[21] James McDonald, Glasgow Pride Event Bans Drag Performers, Out Traveler, 7.20.2015
[25] Daniel Reynolds, Can the Trans and Drag Communities Work Together?, Advocate, May 22 2014 7:00 AM ET
[26] Dan Savage, Glasgow’s Alt Pride Celebration Bans Drag Acts, The Stranger, Jul 20, 2015 at 2:56 pm
[28] Leigh Hill, Glasgow Pride event bans drag; say it may offend, Out in Perth,  21 Jul 2015
[29] Mo Ahmad, Drag queens banned from Pride event ‘because they may offend transgender, Press Examiner, July 22, 2015
[30] Brynn Tannehill, Drag Culture Hurts the Transgender Community, The Bilerico Project,  March 20, 2014 1:00 PM
[31] Glasgow Pride Event Now Allowing Drag Queens – But Only If They’re Trans, Gay Express, July 22, 2015

About Bill Wallace

Bill Wallace is a self-fashioned writter, a computer programmer and cybermarketer from Quebec City, Canada who decided to enter the political arena after his disillusionment with the socialist system under which he was living in the French Canadian province of Quebec.

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