An all-ages drag show set to take place in Victoria this weekend has been canceled after the venue hosting it received multiple harassing phone calls and one threatening gun violence.
The Sashay Cafe drag show was scheduled to be held at Caffe Fantastico Saturday in the lead-up to Victoria Pride Week.
But in recent days, Caffe Fantastico employees were subject to harassing phone calls, including a serious threat made on June 15.
“One caller escalated, actually threatening that someone should shoot up the place and everyone in it,” the cafe said in a statement. “We reported this threat right away to police. The threat understandably was very upsetting to our staff and the organizers and scheduled performers for the event.”
Performers shared news of the cancellation on social media, saying that the venue had earlier received phone calls by an anonymous person “who is upset and claiming that drag shows sexualize children,” and who threatened to show up outside of the show to film.
“It stems from ignorance, it stems from a lack of information and it stems from misunderstanding,” said Britton Kohn, president of the Victoria Pride Society.
“Drag is not sexualized. And to lump drag in with burlesque or other forms of artistic expression means there’s more education that needs to happen. When it comes to children by no means is it sexualized.”
It’s so family-friendly, you can tune into primetime TV to catch Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
A police report has been filed, and organizers said they made the decision to cancel the show out of concern for performers’ safety.
Victoria Police Department said in a statement its officers are investigating the phone calls, but did not disclose the nature of the threats made.
“It is very disappointing to learn of these deeply concerning calls and the impact that they have had on staff, event organizers, and those who were looking forward to this event,” said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Ames, who is also the co-chair of the Greater Victoria Police Diversity Advisory Committee.
“Hate has no place in Victoria. We want those who were looking forward to this event to know that we’re responding to ensure that they are safe and that we hope for the return of this event.”
Caffe Fantastico owner Ryan Taylor said in a statement the business has hosted this event for the past three years and has not had any incidents like this happen before.
“I’m really grateful for our staff, who took the time to try and educate the callers. They informed the callers that the shows were appropriate for all ages to view,” wrote Taylor.
“The show is a dance or musical performance that is hosted to be open, safe, and accessible. One mom at this family-friendly event has stated that this is one of the best experiences they have ever been able to attend with their child, and let us know how important it was that they were welcomed.”
The threats come as lawmakers in Texas push to introduce legislation to ban minors from drag shows, the latest in a wave of anti-gay and anti-transgender legislation coming out of the state in recent months.
In the US there have also been a record number of anti-LGBTQIA+ bills introduced in state legislatures already in 2022, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Organizers of the Victoria show say that the support shown to them after being threatened with violence has been a “silver lining.”
“Please stay safe and continue to challenge the transphobia, homophobia, and attitudes that cause situations like this,” they said in a statement on their Instagram page.
“The hate is alive and real,” said Kohn. “This is why Pride is important, and this is why the Pride Parade exists and is still important because hate is still very alive and well even in Victoria.”
Caffe Fantastico says it’s providing any information required for the police investigation, and adds it will open this Saturday evening in support of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Anyone with information on the threats made is asked to call Victoria Police at 250-995-7654 extension 1 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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