It appears that the show will indeed go on for the organizers of “Drag Syndrome,” and the organizers of this especially sickening and exploitative drag show comprised of individuals with Down syndrome are celebrating their victory.
In the course of following this story, we asked our readers to contact the troupe and protest to their blatant exploitation of people with Down Syndrome for their own sick entertainment and, thanks to the united voice of everyone who stood up for the “performers,” the owner of the original venue dropped the show.
The show, which was originally set to take place at Tanglefoot Studio on the West Side of Grand Rapids until its owner, congressional candidate Pete Meijer, responded to the concerns of disability advocates and concerned citizens and canceled the event.
“After deep reflection on the nature of Drag Syndrome’s performance, I cannot approve of their use of Tanglefoot’s facilities,” Meijer said in a letter to DisArt, the group hosting the show.
“The differently abled are among the most special souls in our community,” Meijer added, “and I believe they, like children and other vulnerable populations, should be protected.”
“This is not a decision I have arrived at lightly,” Meijer continued. “As the true nature of Drag Syndrome’s performance became clear, I consulted with various relevant communities to ensure my decision was made as free of personal bias as possible. I spoke with parents of the differently abled, people who had family members with Down’s syndrome, and members of the LGBTQ and artist community. In nearly every conversation, concerns were raised about the potential exploitation of the vulnerable.”
While Meijer’s steadfastness in standing against this debauchery is commendable, we knew that Drag Syndrome wouldn’t simply close up shop. In less than a week, the show was warmly welcomed by a new venue, Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Theatre.
DisArt is even trying to raise $15,000 to help cover the cost of changing the venue.
“DisArt does not tolerate the exploitation of any Disabled person or artist. Indeed, our mission is to celebrate a culture of disability in order to create awareness, understanding, and belonging for all of us,” their fundraiser states. “We understand that the art of Drag may not be an art form that all can celebrate. This does not, however, mean that we should tolerate the censorship of any artists’ work based on their disability status.”
Daniel Vias, Drag Syndrome’s creative director, said he was thrilled to see the Grand Rapids arts community rally around them after the original venue dropped them.
“The outpouring of support and love has truly been fantastic, and we are so very grateful to Wealthy Theatre for opening their doors to Horroro Shebang, Justin Bond, and Gaia Callas for the first US performance of Drag Syndrome,” said Vias.
“Peter Meijer’s decision to bar three internationally acclaimed artists based on their disability status does not, in any way implicate or diminish the incredible work still happening at the venue,” said Christopher Smit, DisArt’s co-director.
Now, with renewed resolve, Drag Syndrome will perform their vile show on September 7th at 7 pm. Please contact Wealthy Theatre and politely urge them to CANCEL this offensive and exploitative event. This has been successfully stopped once, we can do it again!
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