Venue Owner Turns Away Down Syndrome Drag Show Amid Exploitation Concerns


As we reported last week, Drag Syndrome, a drag troupe based in the UK, was set to parade men and women with Down syndrome around in hideous makeup and dress all in the name of “art” in their first American show.

We asked you to contact the troupe and protest to their exploitation of Down syndrome people. 

Thanks to the massive public outcry that ensued from ourselves and many others Drag Syndrome must find a new venue for its disgusting schtick.

According to LifeSiteNews, Tanglefoot, the Grand Rapids, Michigan arts building where the show was slated for the first week in September, serendipitously turned out to be owned by Peter Meijer, a Republican candidate for Congress. 

“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.” 

In a West Michigan Live radio interview on Friday, Meijer said that parents of children with Down syndrome reached out to him, not even aware that he owned the building, and pleading with him to put a stop to the show.

Meijer also said that disability advocates told him, “This makes us deeply uncomfortable. This is setting us back; this is not going towards the goal of inclusion and belonging for the differently abled.”  

When the interviewer suggested that perhaps Meijer was using the incident as campaign fodder, Meijer fired back, “I’m not going to take advantage of individuals with Down syndrome for political benefit. That is just as exploitative as the performance.”   

Meijer clarified that he had tried to handle the situation privately, but “the people who are putting on the show wanted to make a controversy out of it” and leaked it to the media themselves. 


In addition to correction by Meijer, DisArt received a good scolding in a panel discussion broadcast live on Facebook last week when a woman in the audience stated that society had come a long way since the days when P.T. Barnum exploited people with disabilities by putting them on display like animals.  

“To me, personally and others I know, this is not a form of art,” said the woman. “This to me is … exploitation of Down syndrome people.”    

“God created us in his image,” she continued. “Down syndrome people are very special, they’re very pure of heart, they’re very good, and I feel that this is scandalous to them.”

“As the older brother of a man with Down Syndrome, I was shocked to learn about this evil ‘Drag Syndrome’ event,” said Peter Labarbera, President of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) in a statement to LifeSiteNews. “How cruel to exploit innocent Downs people who are vulnerable and unable to understand fully what this manipulative spectacle is all about.” 

“We already knew that the LGBTQ movement exploits and harms children, and now they prey on the disabled, in the name of ‘art,’” continued LaBarbera. “This reminds Americans that the LGBTQ movement that pretends to be the victim is so often the victimizer.”

Exploitation aside, drag is not art. It is the hypersexualized mockery of women, a sort of “gender blackface” on stage. On that basis, all drag shows are abominable. Those that exploit vulnerable individuals like children and people with disabilities, however, are especially wicked. 

This is a huge win, but we can’t expect Drag Syndrome to simply disappear. Stay tuned for updates as to whether or not “Drag Syndrome” is able to find a new venue. This show must not go on!

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