Fort Worth Drag Show Protest Sparks Tension

A spectator waves a gay rainbow flag | Image by Ink Drop/Shutterstock

FORT WORTH — Protesters and counter-protesters faced off Monday in front of the venue for an all-ages drag show.

The protest occurred in front of Tulips on St. Louis Avenue, where a performance called Sips and Quips, consisting of trivia and a drag show, was to take place at 7 p.m.

Protesters were already gathered on opposite sides of the street at 5 p.m.

During a tense moment, police on bicycles put themselves in front of a group of protesters who wore masks and carried signs reading “Pedophiles get the rope.”

The protesters against the drag show numbered approximately 10, while the counter-protesters were more than 20.

One protester with a sign that read “Kids and kinks don’t mix” chastised the masked protesters for supposedly being “Nazis” and moved away from them, choosing to protest separately.

When The Dallas Express asked him about it, he declined to elaborate on the interaction.

Despite the occasional insult hurled across the street, the protests remained peaceful.

Fort Worth police appeared to be on standby around the corner, but other than briefly separating the protesters with bikes, their presence was mostly unfelt.

The Dallas Express reached out to the owner of Tulips, Jason Suder, who stated that his business is an all-ages music venue that holds a wide variety of events, but no one under the age of 16 can enter without being accompanied by a parent.

“We let the parents decide whether it is or is not appropriate for their children,” Suder said.

He went on to argue that the issue was ultimately about freedom of speech and expression and that his venue is open to the LGBT community, both as attendees and performers.

When asked about the protest, Suder claimed to The Dallas Express, “Love won. … More than 300 people turned out to support the entertainment, the [LGBT] community, and love.”

The protest at Tulips comes as two bills aimed at limiting all-ages drag performances were recommended through a committee of the Texas Senate on Monday, as reported by The Dallas Morning News.

One bill criminalizes a man presenting as a woman or a woman presenting as a man in front of a minor or in public if such presentation is sexually explicit.

The other bill denies funds to libraries if a drag performance is presented as the primary source of entertainment at any library event.

James Steele, who was present at the protest Monday, told The Dallas Express that he did not fall on either side. Steele explained that he felt the controversy revolved more around children than the performances themselves.

“For me, I’m just an ordinary citizen trying to keep things from getting out of hand,” Steele said. “What I do is give out free bottles of water. I have a medical kit in my back so I can help anyone who needs it. Hopefully, no one does.”

Steele said he gives any leftover water bottles to the homeless.

He noted that he personally does not like the idea of children watching drag, arguing the performances are not appropriate.

“And I’ve seen what goes on in some of these drags shows. They’re wearing thongs, they’re twerking in front of kids, and — I don’t know — I just wouldn’t want my kids or anyone else’s kids to be exposed to that.”

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