No, Free Pride Glasgow did not ban drag queens
Take a deep breath. Nobody is banned. The very articles you’re reading with headlines that claim drag queens are banned very clearly state that drag queens are not banned.
The actual story is not that exciting. All organizations have criteria for selecting performers, and Free Pride Glasgow is no exception.
Let’s talk about what actually happened.
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.
No matter how you personally feel about drag, this is true. While much, even a majority, of cis people in drag are very much pro trans and even good allies, some of the most visible and popular performers are proud or even violent transphobes.
While we’re here I’ll remind you that however you feel about this view, the way some trans people are affected is valid and deserves consideration — particularly from a pride organization formed to address structural issues within big-P Pride, where trans people are often marginalized in-community.
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.
Here’s the point— it’s not about drag. It’s about creating a safer space for trans attendees, by minimizing harm caused by cis performers whose acts are often accidentally transmisogynist (or may be perceived as such).
(Free Pride has since revised their policy to allow drag acts by trans performers)
So that’s it. They chose not to invite any drag performers. But wait, are drag queens allowed?
We would like to reaffirm that this is not to say that we do not want gender expression, which we do encourage, at our event. We encourage everyone to wear what they want and express their gender however they please!
So. How the hell did that turn into “they banned drag queens”?
As far as I can tell it started on July 20, three days after Free Pride announced their policy. Pink News, a well-known queer news blog, published an article that takes a detour to dump on NUS (why? that’ll be clear) and quotes the Free Pride press release but also includes a total fabrication of a headline.
It’s not like they didn’t know they were lying — the tagline contradicts the headline:
A Pride event in Scotland has banned all drag queens from performing — in case they are “offensive” to trans people.
And yet, we’re off to the races. They even put scare quotes around offensive!
An astute reader might note that drag king acts are also not welcome, and might wonder why that didn’t even come to mind for Pink News contributor Nick Duffy.
Anyway, this libel spread like wildfire through LGB media. Even the National Review sunk their teeth in it, because what reactionaries don’t like smearing trans people?
One might also notice the same author’s follow-up article (after Free Pride revised their policy due to further feedback from trans performers) is quick to note in the tagline that cisgender performers (with cisgender in scare quotes, of course) will still not be invited to perform.
The why is simple. There’s only one thing driving this media circus: cis male entitlement. That’s why Nick can’t tell the difference between declining to invite drag acts to perform and banning drag queens. This is why none of the media outlets that have picked the story up so much as thought about mentioning drag kings — because drag kings aren’t, generally, cis men.
Free Pride Glasgow’s crime is decentering cis men, by declining to feature an art form which is dominated by them. Their crime is placing the comfort, concerns, and safety of the trans community at a higher priority than making space for cis men to perform.
A Pride event set up to address structural issues that plague Pride is being widely punished with libel and harassment for the crime of addressing structural issues.
And that is the real crime here.