Experts who monitor the far right have watched for months as public aggression toward the LGBTQ community in general and the transgender population in particular has ramped up, according to USA Today. Drag shows across the U.S. have, been targeted by far-right extremists including Proud Boys and white supremacists. Protests and violence at LGBTQ events have surged for at least the last two years. At those street protests, extremists have been joined by everyday conservatives – fueled, experts say, by right-wing media. The target of their outrage were previously obscure events ranging from drag shows to children’s book readings. Republican politicians like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have put opposition to transgender rights at the center of their political agendas, moving to have state agents investigate parents who seek care for transgender children or ban doctors from providing that care. Lawmakers in several states have prepared bills to essentially outlaw drag shows and further marginalize the LGBTQ community. It’s the same pattern extremism researchers have seen again and again: The far right uniting against a marginalized community until, inevitably, that community gets attacked, usually by a man with guns. After more than 18 months of escalating rhetoric against the LGBTQ community from politicians, pundits, and extremists, five people have been killed and 17 wounded in a Colorado Springs bar, on the weekend of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a weekend the bar was hosting drag shows.
Right-wing media focus “obsessively” on drag shows, “falsely portraying them as a threat not just to children, but to civilization as a whole,” says Media Matters for America, a left-leaning watchdog group. The group cited a range of examples: Segments on Fox News claiming that drag queens are part of a plot to sexualize children; a popular anti-LGBTQ TikTok account that has released the locations of drag events, mocking them and fueling outrage against them; and far-right commentators such as Matthew Walsh, a columnist and podcaster who has urged an “aggressive” approach to battle drag shows, which he likened to fighting cancer. The campaign against drag shows has become a unifying theme for everyone from white supremacists to adherents to the QAnon conspiracy theory, said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “They've all converged on demonizing this particular population,” she said. Sam Ames of the Trevor Project, a mental health organization for LGBTQ young people, said it’s always difficult to keep fighting after a violation against your community. “Survival is an act of resistance. And also that survival is about more than breath, it’s about living fully as who we are and giving the next generation of people like us the protection and permission to live fully as they are,” he said. “We fight for ourselves and we fight the ones coming after us. And sometimes that fight is beautiful and colorful, and sparkling and in the best kind of drag. And sometimes that fight is heartbreaking and violent and bloody."