The administration of President Joe Biden has ceased allowing drag shows on U.S. military bases, following objections from certain Republican factions. This decision coincides with a broader conservative campaign in various states aimed at curbing LGBTQ+ festivities.
The Pentagon’s representative, Sabrina Singh, mentioned on Thursday that the hosting of drag shows is “not in line with the guidelines for the utilization of Defense Department resources.” As a result, at least one show was called off. The Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada had to cancel a drag show planned to celebrate Pride Month, which started on Thursday, as per a Facebook post cited by Fox News.
Singh’s statement did not explicitly comment on LGBTQ+ rights, but she emphasized the Defense Department’s pride in serving with any young American willing to risk their life for the nation’s defense.
The decision to cancel the event was celebrated as a “MAJOR WIN!” by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who had earlier taken issue with Pentagon higher-ups regarding drag shows. He further tweeted that such shows should not be held on military premises using taxpayers’ money.
Drag shows are entertainment events featuring performers embodying a different gender. These shows often form part of Pride celebrations, and may include flamboyantly dressed drag queens reading books to children. Advocates argue that these events celebrate diverse sexual orientations and foster acceptance.
Critics, however, assert that drag show organizers aim to “sexualize” children. These shows occasionally face protests and several Republican-dominated legislatures have recently passed legislation aiming to ban or restrict them.
Nellis Air Force Base has previously welcomed drag performers. A similar event in 2021 saw approximately 180 attendees, as reported by Task and Purpose, a military-focused publication.
This week’s cancellation by the Pentagon provoked the Human Rights Campaign, an advocate for LGBTQ+ civil rights, to criticize Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin directly. In a statement, they said that despite Secretary Austin’s staunch support for LGBTQ+ Americans serving in the military, he seemed to have chosen to align with fear and discriminatory politics propagated by extremist members of Congress on the first day of Pride.