Drag shows, a regular feature of weekend entertainment across a growing swath of the nation, have become an increasingly tense and armed frontline in recent months in the struggle over gender and identity. In San Lorenzo, Ca., in June, a group of men with the far-right Proud Boys entered a public library to stop a drag performer from reading a book to children, the New York Times reports. Outside a drag brunch in August in Roanoke, Tx., protesters confronted heavily armed counterprotesters who carried AR-15-style rifles and wore rainbow colors in addition to their mostly black attire. In Memphis, armed protesters forced the cancellation of a drag event in September at the Museum of Science and History in September. Early on Halloween, a man firebombed a doughnut shop in Tulsa, Ok., that had hosted a drag event.
The gunman in Colorado Springs who killed five people last month at Club Q targeted a venue that hosted drag performances earlier that evening and was promoting an “all-ages drag brunch” the next day. Dozens of drag shows and library readings have drawn angry demonstrations or threats since the spring, after conservative commentators and Republican politicians began, ahead of the midterm elections, to amp up their rhetoric accusing the performers of targeting children and trying to sexualize them. In Florida, the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis filed a complaint against a Miami restaurant whose weekend brunches featuring drag performers were so popular that there was usually a line out the door. “Having kids involved in this is wrong,” DeSantis said. “It is a disturbing trend." “They indoctrinate children,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in a campaign ad as an image of a drag performer reading to children flashed on the screen. “Try to turn boys into girls.” The idea of having drag performers read to children in libraries and schools was developed in 2015 by a queer parent of a young child who wanted to make a place for kids that would be inclusive, said Jonathan Hamilt of Drag Story Hour, which organizes readings.