Forbes Business Breaking Pentagon Bans Military Drag Shows After GOP Pushback—Despite Long History Brian Bushard Forbes Staff I cover breaking news for Forbes Following Jun 1, 2023, 05:42pm EDT | Press play to listen to this article! Got it! Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin Topline The Department of Defense will not allow drag shows at military bases, the Pentagon confirmed to Forbes on Thursday, amid heavy pressure from Republicans against the decades-old tradition and as drag performances nationwide face pushback. The Department of Defense will no longer allow drag shows at military bases, the Pentagon announced . .
. [+] Thursday. Getty Images Key Facts Department of Defense Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told Forbes the department will stop hosting the events at its installations and facilities, saying hosting the shows is “inconsistent with regulations regarding the use of DoD resources.
” Singh said the military’s ethics rules state “certain criteria must be met for persons or organizations acting in non-Federal capacity to use DoD facilities and equipment. ” The ban formalizes a longstanding Defense Department policy, though it has not always been enforced, Singh told Politico . The announcement also comes one day after department officials canceled a drag event at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in honor of the start of Pride Month, NBC News reported.
Drag shows on U. S. military bases, a tradition dating back to the late 1800s, have faced mounting criticism from GOP lawmakers who argue the shows distract from the military’s operations and should not be federally funded.
Conservative firebrand Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla. ) grilled Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last month on drag queen story hours on military bases, though Austin responded the department does not fund the events.
Contra The announcement comes on the first day of Pride Month, a month intended to promote LGBTQ advocacy, which Austin honored in a statement, saying he feels “honored” to implement President Joe Biden’s January 2021 executive order enabling all qualified citizens to serve in the U. S. Armed Forces (that order repealed a Trump-era ban on transgender troops).
Austin also said in the statement the Pentagon will “honor the service, commitment, and sacrifice of the LGBTQ+ Service members and personnel who volunteer to defend our country. ” Key Background Military drag performances date back to the late 1800s and were common during World War I and World War II, though they were primarily comedy events in which men would appear as poorly-dressed women to lighten the mood during wartime. Late comedy legends Bob Hope, Jonathan Winters and Rat Pack star Sammy Davis Jr.
also dressed in drag at Hope’s 83rd birthday celebration aboard the U. S. S.
Lexington in 1986, the New York Times notes. They were also popularized in the 1970s Korean War TV drama M*A*S*H , with Corporal Maxwell Klinger, played by Jamie Farr, cross-dressing in women’s clothes in a bid to be relieved of duty. Tangent In recent years, drag shows in the U.
S. have come under fire by critics on the right and sparked right-wing protests at Drag Story Hour events designed for children, while far-right commentators, including Alex Jones, have espoused the false conspiracy theory that drag artists intend to sexualize children. One Drag Story Hour performance was canceled on a U.
S. Air Force base in Germany last June after facing backlash from GOP lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.
), who called it “sexually charged. ” In a few cases, protesters have shown up to drag performances—in one instance , protesters with guns assembled outside a planned drag performance at a pub in Oregon. Chief Critic Democrats have slammed GOP lawmakers who have criticized drag shows in the U.
S. , arguing anti-drag-show sentiment is dangerous for LGBTQ children. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, in turn, argued the story hours are for the purpose of “advancing a love of diversity, personal expression and literacy.
” The Anti-Defamation League also slammed the far-right conspiracy that drag queens are grooming children, calling the theory a “dangerous, bigoted lie. ” Further Reading How Drag Queens Became A Right-Wing Target—From Alex Jones To Tucker Carlson–With These States Trying To Ban Story Hours And Shows (Forbes) Send me a secure tip . Brian Bushard Editorial Standards Print Reprints & Permissions.