‘Drag theater' in Ecuador: Is State Dept. right funding?


Fact Box

  • The Department of State awarded Centro Ecuatoriano Norteamericano De Cuenca (CEN) a grant in September 2022 of $20,600 to “promote diversity and inclusion” with three workshops, 12 drag theater performances, and a two-minute documentary. 
  • MasterClass defines ‘Drag’ as being “a gender-bending art form in which a person dresses in clothing and makeup meant to exaggerate a specific gender identity, usually of the opposite sex,” and with its “main purpose” revolving around entertainment and performance, it is commonly used as “self-expression and a celebration of LGBTQ+ pride.” Drag performers dress up in exaggerated clothing, highlighted by elaborate hair and makeup. 
  • In 1867, the Hamilton Lodge in Harlem hosted the first “drag ball,” featuring both sexes coming dressed to compete for “best gown” or “feminine figure.”
  • A February 2022 Gallup poll reported LGBTQ identification in the US has ticked up to 7.1% from 5.6% in 2021, with nearly 21% of Gen Z identifying as LGBTQ.

Andrew (Yes)

While this is likely the first time State Department cultural funds have been allocated to promote drag performances, the concept of American money flowing to international nonprofits for the promotion of local cultural interests is nothing new. Since these endowments largely go unreported by news outlets, it's worth asking why this recent donation to Centro Ecuatoriano Norteamericano (CEN) has generated such an explosion of coverage. The answer is simple: unfortunately, this is another non-issue that has been hyped up by partisan news outlets such as Fox News and the Daily Caller to stoke right-wing outrage. These articles attempt to paint the financial support as the Biden administration exporting a cultural agenda like some sort of 'woke colonialism.' The truth is that these drag performances are a local cultural interest put on by a group that was willing to jump through hoops to receive funding, not some sinister exportation scheme by the state department. Additionally, some speaking out against the funds seem to take issue with the price tag, especially during a bad economy. It's worth noting that these funds would have been earmarked for cultural programs in South America in an annual budget; they actually cannot be used for anything else.

Now, on its merits, drag performance is a valid, interesting, and safe form of cultural expression. And if a performance proposal meets the donor's requirements, it should be considered for funding. Cultural grants should be awarded based on an organization's ability to meet the qualifications set out in its calls, not based on the specific mediums and performance techniques it contains.

Curtice (No)

In recent years, many insane and downright dangerous things have been done in the name of 'diversity, equity, and inclusion.' And as the Biden administration repeatedly demonstrates, they will push 'woke' progressivism—including LGBTQ ideals—on the nations abroad and at the American taxpayer's expense. 

As Biden's State Department has awarded a $20,600 grant to Centro Ecuatoriano Norteamericano (CEN), a non-profit organization in Ecuador to promote 'diversity and inclusion' in the form of drag shows, it actually has little to do with 'diversity and inclusion,' but rather indoctrination. It has both financial and psychological consequences. Granted, $20,600 is a drop in the proverbial federal budget bucket. But, to quote former Senator Everett Dirksen, there are enough of these federal grants that 'Pretty soon, it adds up to real money.'

There is a difference between acceptance and promotion of given lifestyles or behaviors. With such a grant, the US State Department has decided it wants to push, not just accept, all things LGBTQ-related—which has increasingly championed burlesque shows of gay men dressing up as sexualized caricatures of women. What is amusing, if not outright odd, is that no such grants are awarded to heterosexual females performing in front of children.

Diversity is promoted as a great thing. Perhaps it is, but there are very few, if any, empirical studies that test that hypothesis. Saying something is good does not make it so. Empirical evidence would be helpful. Perhaps those who champion 'diversity' as the end all be all don't want to test its goodness for fear that maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be. If a non-profit in Ecuador wants to put on drag shows, they are free to do so. They should not, however, be done on the American taxpayers' dime.

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