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Top drag stars, LGBTQ celebrities including Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Adam Lambert, and celebrity allies of the queer community banded together Sunday to stage Drag Isn’t Dangerous, a telethon to raise money to combat anti-LGBTQ legislation.
As anti-drag and anti-trans bills proliferate across the United States — such as Tennessee’s ban on public drag performances (which has been temporarily blocked by a judge) — the telethon brought in more than $500,000 from 5,000 individual donors. According to the organizers, “all net proceeds from the event will be divided among approved charities (GLAAD, GLSEN, Headcount, Black Queer Town Hall, The ACLU Drag Defense Fund, Trans Justice Funding Project, Victory Fund) that support LGBTQIA+ causes and drag performers in need, especially in states where they face discrimination and bans.” The fundraiser, held through GoFundMe, continues through Tuesday.
During the more than four-hour telethon, Hollywood allies making appearances — both live and pre-taped — included Charlize Theron, Leslie Jones, Jesse Eisenberg, singer Joey McIntyre, Melissa McCarthy, Sarah Hyland and Idina Menzel.
Marcia Gay Harden appeared live, sitting down with event co-host Adam Shankman (director of Disenchanted and Hairspray) to discuss what drives her to support this cause.
“What drives me is because it’s right and what’s happening right now is wrong,” said Harden. “What drives me is — my children are all queer. My eldest child is non-binary. My son is gay. My youngest is fluid. And you know, they are my kids and they teach me every day.”
Speaking about the wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation, the Oscar-winning actress added, “This is so fear-based and it’s spreading that kind of fear and hatred among other people. I believe this country will fight that.”
Also on the telethon, Theron, who has a transgender daughter and is a vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights, appeared with a group of friends in a pre-taped segment in which she told the drag community, “We love you queens. We’re in your corner and we’ve got you, and I will fuck anybody up who’s trying to fuck with anything with you guys.”
And in a statement which seemed to reference gun violence, Theron added, “There are so many things hurting and really killing our kids and we all know what I’m talking about right now and it ain’t no drag queen — because if you’ve ever seen a drag queen lip sync for her life, it only makes you happier, it only make you love more, it makes you a better person.”
The evening was produced by Producer Entertainment Group, a management firm, record label and production company, that represents drag stars and other LGBTQ talent.
The night’s lineup included a who’s who of the dragocracy, from Jinkx Monsoon (who had been scheduled to appear at the MTV Movie and TV Awards before the live telecast was cancelled), Trixie Mattel and Ginger Minj to Candis Cayne, Laganja Estranja and Sherry Vine, many of them taking calls from donors during the telethon.
One call came from a teacher in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed through the so-called Don’t Say Gay Law. “I make sure all my kids are loved,” said the teacher, “and I want everybody to know we love you in Florida. We’re here to protect all our kids. Special love to all of our trans children and trans families. We’re grateful for you.”
Along with Shankman, the night’s hosts were comic Justin Martindale and drag stars Alaska and Peppermint. Menzel appeared live from the Bourbon Room on Hollywood Boulevard with composer Tom Kitt in a group performance of the song “Light,” while Bob the Drag Queen appeared live from the Troubadour in West Hollywood performing the song “Bitch Like Me.”
The livestream included segments in which drag performers talked about how doing drag changed their lives and has provided them with a means of free expression and in which they denounced anti-drag and anti-trans legislation for demonizing them and, they contended, stoking violence against the LGBTQ community.
Drag performer Nina West appeared in a segment speaking to the harassment he has encountered, including a person with airhorns showing up at his house while he was doing a drag queen story hour on Instagram; being doxed and having his address and his parents’ address put online; someone putting a sign in his yard labeling him a “groomer,” and encountering threats of violence while on a drag Christmas tour last year.
“We had protesters outside of every show,” West said about the tour. “We had bomb threats, bomb-sniffing dogs and, yes, we had to be driven out of one city with a police escort so we wouldn’t be driven off the road … We can’t sit back. We can’t allow this to continue. We cannot be the punching bag for people who have no idea what our community is about.”
Also included were news clips detailing not only the latest wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation, but also showing politicians and right-wing media personalities castigating queer people, such as commentator Michael Knowles who said earlier this year at the CPAC conference, “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”
The telethon started with a (mostly serious) comedy bit in which drag performer Kelly Mantle surprised Ginger Minj by teleporting in from a dystopian future in which the far-right had succeeded in exactly those aims.
“I just came back from the future. I just escaped and I came back to make this PSA. … In the future, there’s no more drag, they banned it. They banned all of it. They banned duct tape. They banned drag. They banned pride. … They rounded us all up and threw us into camps … And there’s no one to host bingo. There’s no one to host drag brunch. There’s no one to save Broadway. There are no more split, no dips, no more hair clips, no shablam,” Mantle said.
The telethon can be viewed at moment.co/dangerous. Additionally, Drag Isn’t Dangerous — whose supporters include Warner Music Group’s ADA Music, the ACLU, the Grammy Museum, Amazon’s Glamazon employee affinity group, UTA and OUTtv — has released a charity single, also titled “Drag Isn’t Dangerous” and featuring Javelle and Ocean Kelly.
Also making pre-taped remarks was actress, director and producer Elizabeth Banks who said, “Anti-drag bills have been introduced in a dozen states and that’s along with nearly 375 anti-LGBTQ+ bills targeting queer people.”
“And make no mistake,” Banks continued. “These bills are not just undemocratic, trying to take rights away from our fellow citizens, they are dangerous. They are creating a culture of discrimination that puts drag performers, trans people and others into serious increased risk for violence.”
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