ELORA – After being subject to hateful comments leading up to a drag event held in Elora, just a few protesters showed up on Saturday. It didn’t put a damper on the show, but a drag queen who performed at the event is troubled that this is becoming the norm.
The Elora Distilling Co. was met with a barrage of hateful and threatening comments, emails and phone calls when it announced The Winters a Drag show earlier this year.
The event went ahead on Jan. 28 and would be the fourth drag show held at the distillery. Karma Kameleon, one of the drag queens who performed at this show, confirmed this show had protesters show up.
Wellington OPP said in a release officers responded to a disturbance at a business on Metcalfe Street in Elora on Saturday.
Wellington OPP media officer Jacob Unger said in an email three or four individuals were trying to disrupt an event but left the area without incident when police attended the scene.
He also said protesters did not make any attempts to enter any premises.
Elora Distilling Co. co-owner Marty Van Vliet previously told EloraFergusToday people were calling the company “pedophiles” and “groomers” after advertising the event on social media. Requests for comment from distillery owners or management weren’t returned.
This sort of social media hate is starting to become the norm for drag performers, said drag queen Karma Kameleon who was one of three performers at the Elora event.
Kameleon said she got to the show relatively early, 6:30 p.m. for a show that started at 8 p.m., and three protesters were already there. Online comments seemed to lean towards the “groomer kind of angle” but the ones who showed up were more religiously motivated, said Kameleon.
“All older gentlemen, two of whom were more I guess inclined to have a conversation,” Kameleon said, adding while they approached in a more respectful manner she doesn’t find their beliefs to be respectful.
“There was one there literally on a soapbox holding a bible screaming about how we were all sinners and all that fun stuff.”
Kameleon said staff at the Elora Distilling Co. handled everything well, recording all comments before deleting it, had a private security guard and were good about checking in on performers to make sure they felt safe.
While she personally doesn’t enjoy being around police, she said because of the history of persecution of queer people by police, Kameleon said she understood why that’s the option to go with sometimes.
She said police maintained a presence outside of the venue and the protesters more or less went away when they showed up.
This incident ultimately didn’t put a damper on the event either and may have actually had the opposite effect.
“It almost makes people want to be louder and more positive and more celebratory in spite of it,” Kameleon said, noting she’s heard this from other drag queens or performers who have faced protesters.
“Once you walk past the protesters, it was just such a loving environment, everyone was so excited to be there and it almost felt like the audience was even more bought into what we were doing because they almost wanted to balance out the hate.”
But hateful comments directed towards drag queens are ramping up and Kameleon pointed to social media as a major culprit.
“Social media is so lax on what it considers to be hate speech, specifically Facebook or Instagram unless it’s a specific slur,” Kameleon said, explaining people will get flagged for using specific slurs but terms such as groomer or pedophile seem to be allowed.
“That is still hate speech and using those words is to dehumanize us … and instigate violence and I think we need to do a lot better in terms of social media platforms and I think in terms of government regulations around what hate speech is.”