Metro Weekly

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Raises $2 Million for ACLU

Launched in April 2023, the ACLU’s Drag Defense Fund works to counter attacks against the LGBTQ community on multiple fronts.

RuPaul – VH1

In little more than a year, RuPaul’s Drag Race has raised $2 million to help the ACLU push back against anti-LGBT efforts, including attacks against drag performance.

The news was first reported on June 10 in a Variety exclusive.

According to the ACLU, the Drag Defense Fund initiative, formed in April 2023, also partners with MTV and the World of Wonder production company to “fuel the ACLU’s expansive advocacy work in support of the LGBTQ community, which includes everything from courtroom battles, to guidance on state-level legislation, to challenging LGBTQ censorship in classrooms.”

World of Wonder produces Drag Race, which airs on MTV. 

Transgender drag performer Peppermint, who placed second in Season 9 of Drag Race, spoke about the hostile political landscape currently faced by drag performers and the whole of the LGBT community on the ACLU’s At Liberty podcast in January of 2023, shortly before the initiative was launched. 

“Trans issues, trans rights…anything having to do with gender and sexuality, they’re trying to dismantle that,” Peppermint told podcast host Kendall Ciesemier, referring to the politicians, pundits, and activists attacking the LGBTQ community. “[They’re trying to] dismantle any of the progress that we’ve had on that and turn us into the boogeyman.” 

This year alone, as of June 14, the ACLU is tracking 522 “anti-LGBTQ bills” in the United States, as illustrated on the organization’s interactive legislative map. Among a variety of categories, the map identifies 16 pieces of legislation as “barriers to accurate IDs,” 111 as “healthcare restrictions,” and 12 as “public accommodation bans.” 

As an example of the “drag panic” that’s entered the current cultural dialogue, a March “Drag Queen Story Hour” in Lancaster, Pa., stirred the local community, as reported by LancasterOnline. An action in opposition was organized by a member of the area’s right-wing Moms for Liberty group, Lucy Gillichbauer.

While the report was clear that Gillichbauer applied for the permit as an individual, rather than on behalf of Moms for Liberty, LancasterOnline also included comment seen on the group’s private Facebook page.

There, a poster listed as Lucy Gill wrote, “We need to protect our children! … This has no place in our community and is not ok. Enough is enough! It is time to take a stand in uniting and protect what is sacred, our children.” 

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Moms for Liberty “use their multiple social media platforms to target teachers and school officials, advocate for the abolition of the Department of education, advance conspiracy propaganda, and spread hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community.”

The organization is set to hold its “Joyful Warriors National Summit” from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 at D.C.’s JW Marriott.

Earlier this month, Drag Race finalist Sapphira Cristál, on an episode, answered a question posed by RuPaul: “What does the world need to know about drag queens?”

Cristál answered, as shared in a Facebook Reel, “The world needs to know that drag queens are just here to spread love and to entertain. And if you are afraid of drag, then you are afraid of freedom.”

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