Just a few months ago, local drag performer Crystal Quartz felt safe doing her job. But that’s no longer the case.
Quartz has been the target of online harassment from a hate group based out of Peel Region, with members threatening to come to her drag brunch events, buying up all the tickets to “give them a real audience to perform in front of,” one member wrote on Facebook.
“Go buy out the tickets so NO CHILDREN SEE THAT FILTH!!!” Another wrote on an Instragram story.
“A freedom fighter has an obligation to wake up the ‘woke’ (not woke) radical-left from the continued sexual objectification of children,” another comment read.
Her drag brunch at a Burlington Kelseys received so much harassment, the restaurant ended up cancelling the show out of concerns for safety.
Police have been contacted and are investigating.
But the harassment and threats to show up at shows has continued, and not just for Quartz.
On Nov. 24, protesters showed up to a Drag Storytime event held by Hamilton-based drag performer Hexe Noire at a Hamilton Public Library, claiming they needed to protect the children “from the drag queen … who was going to be grooming their children to be a member of (a) cult,” Noire said.
Noire caught wind of what was happening beforehand, and put out a call to the community to “come stand strang, to ward off the protesters that were trying to shut us down.”
And the community answered. For every one protester, she said there were four or five counter-protesters showing their support, though she was still terrified.
“Love did win on the day of the event,” she said. But, like Quartz, said she’s still seeing harassment from the members of the hate group, and “absolutely” doesn’t feel safe performing.
“I’ve been mis-gendered a number of times; many times been called a groomer, been told that the only good groomer is a dead groomer,” she said. “I feel like a post-COVID, they're just getting started. And we need to put an end to the hate.”
The harassment is similar for Quartz, who does a lot of family-friendly events.
“The drag that I do for kids, I do like Captain Hook and Little Mermaid stuff like that. There’s nothing sexual about what I do,” she said.
Quartz has reached out to Guelph police regarding the harassment she’s been receiving, asking them to look into the threats.
“I just want these threats to get taken seriously,” she said. “This is a hate crime that they're doing. And they're making me feel insecure about going to my job, to the point I’m checking to see my exits when I get places.
“It’s very scary to think that people want to harm you just for being yourself and making a safe space for people."
On Nov. 30, Guelph Police Service said it was investigating these threats, and is “aware of protesters whose focus has been on members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in other parts of the province, but are not aware of any other such protests reported in Guelph.”
“I think it hasn’t gone as far as the Guelph area,” she said. “I’m being targeted because I’m doing all my shows outside of Guelph. So I’m closer to the region where all this hate is going on,” she said.
Quartz said she had considered hiring security, but couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket. Now, she’s launched a GoFundMe to help with the costs, for security and things like ID scanners, personal protection and self-defense courses.
While there haven’t been any anti-drag protests in Guelph, local drag performer Sapphyre Poison said it’s “still really upsetting to see the hate rhetoric being spread so freely.”
“I do feel safe performing but I can’t lie that we do subconsciously look at exit strategies when we do new gigs,” she said, adding that she hasn’t experienced any anti-drag sentiment in Guelph in recent years.
“We’re fortunate that (Guelph is) a pretty progressive community compared to a lot of others,” said Barry Moore, chair of Out on the Shelf.
Moore said that while OOTS hasn’t received any harassment, it’s still “a very hard time for the community.”
“There’s grieving going on within the community, because it’s such a scary and intense loss,” he said of the Club Q mass shooting in Colorado. “It’s hard not to shake the fear that the next time we have an event, is that going to be a risk? Even though it’s less likely to happen in Canada, it’s still hard not to think about.”
For some, harassment is a daily occurrence, and it’s not new.
Guelph drag performer, Tammy the Brown, said she receives harassment “all the time.”
It comes in various forms: online, being yelled at in person, even having small items thrown at her when walking down the street.
“But I’m lucky I’ve never been the victim of a really serious attack,” she said, though how safe she feels performing in Guelph is “hit and miss.”
“As a person of colour, it does shed a bit of a different light on there. Some days, I do feel safe taking transit in full drag. After everything that’s gone on lately, I definitely don’t.”
Brown said within the queer community she’s seen “heightened fear. There’s changes within how we see our safe spaces, and how we try to navigate and create them.”
This sentiment was shared by Noire as well.
“The amount of people that have said hateful things and threatened me ... I couldn't possibly walk into an LGBTQ+ positive safe space and feel good about being there when I know people in the world are coming out and killing members of my community just for being themselves,” she said.
Brown remains hopeful.
“Things are definitely changing. And those things do make me happy. We have to take the small victories where we can,” she said.
For instance, she said during the protest at Noire’s event, “you could see that the people on the side of the community were much larger than the side of hate. And the way that form of hate is normally no longer the norm.”
Brown said it’s important to not just be a bystander.
“And if you’re going to have passion in a protest and during the movement, then you should be able to apply that passion daily. Educate your co-workers, correct your family and friends. Speak to your children.”
Moore said the biggest thing is for allies “who understand how to respectfully engage in our spaces to do so.”
“It helps to have more people there, and we need to show the people who are expressing this hatred, we are going to come together and we’re not going to stand for it. And allies are a critical part of that.”