Pentagon cancels drag show at Air Force Base after Republican criticism

The Defense Department said on Thursday it would no longer hold drag shows on US military bases after Republican politicians complained about events planned to celebrate Pride month.

Sabrina Singh, the department’s deputy press secretary, said in a statement that “traffic incidents” were not an “appropriate use” of the department’s resources.

The statement did not say how the Pentagon defines a tow event. Drag shows, which have entered the mainstream in recent years, are a variety of performance where gender assumptions are challenged through dress and makeup, dance and song.

Under the department’s ethics regulations, Ms. Singh said, “certain conditions must be met for individuals or entities acting in a non-federal capacity” to use the department’s facilities and equipment.

“As Secretary Austin has stated, DOD will not conduct towing events on U.S. military installations or facilities,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Ms. Singh said of Austin III. “Hosting these types of events at federally funded facilities is not an appropriate use of DOD resources.”

The Defense Department did not specify what makes drag events inappropriate compared to other military pride events that include speeches, panel discussions and road races.

One of the canceled events was a drag show scheduled for Thursday at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, northeast of Las Vegas. NBC reported. Promotion for the show described it as a “family-friendly” event featuring three performers, including former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant Coco Mondries.

The site hosted drag shows in 2021 and 2022. Task & Purpose, an online publication covering the military and defence, reported The 2021 show featured Ms. Mondries and other artists who taught attendees about the history and importance of drag in the LGBTQ community. The event was planned by the site’s Pride Committee, the release said.

Officials at Nellis Air Force Base did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

The restrictions come as conservative commentators and Republican politicians have targeted drag shows and library readings, calling the events inappropriate for children. The rhetoric has sparked protests by far-right groups and threats against protesters, including armed protesters. Canceling an event September at the Museum of Science and History in Memphis.

Since the beginning of 2022, violent actions aimed at at least 166 protests, threats and drag-out incidents, According to a report published by GLAAD in AprilAn LGBTQ advocacy organization.

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing in March, Republican Rep. Matt Gates of Florida asked military leaders about the Nellis Air Force Base event and other pride celebrations.

She mentions a drag queen story time at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana In 2021 A drag queen story time is scheduled for Friday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany Military.com reported It has since been cancelled.

Mr. Austin, the defense secretary, told a House Armed Services Committee hearing that the Defense Department does not fund drag shows or drag queen story time.

Testifying at the hearing was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Millay said he wanted to “find out what’s really going on there.”

“I want to see them because I don’t agree with them,” he said. “I don’t think those things should happen.”

Last month, Mr. Austin and General Milley to Mr. Gates sent a letter. Asked how federal money was used for drag events and how the events were organized.

Drag has a long history in the US military.

Images of naval service members have been dragged through the photo archives In the 1920s and American soldiers Performs a drag show 10 days after Germany surrendered to Allied forces in World War II.

In a touring show called This Is the Army, male service members performed female parts in drag and traveled around the world. North Carolina State Archives Describes it as “the largest and most well-known morale-boosting event” of World War II. Bob Hope, one of the most popular USO tour entertainers, performed in drag on television specials. During the celebration His 83rd birthday Aboard the USS Lexington.

Historian Alan Berube explores the history of drag in the military in his book, “Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War I.” Drag shows are enjoyed by men of all genders and are credited with providing a safe space for non-straight service members.

The book describes the delivery of gold lame costumes to a small coral reef near New Guinea for a show organized by an Army Air Corpsman named Ben Small.

“Well, here’s everyone in the office from lieutenant on down trying on dresses!” Mr. Siru said. “Everyone is suddenly a drag queen!”

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