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Drag show at Nellis AFB canceled despite previous approval

Updated June 1, 2023 - 3:30 pm

Pentagon officials have canceled an upcoming drag event at the Nellis Air Force Base, even though the family-friendly show had been previously approved by the Air Force.

“Drag-u-Nellis,” first hosted at the base in 2021, brought Las Vegas-based drag performers — including former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestants — to participate in the fun-filled evening to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month while promoting diversion and inclusivity.

This year, the show was scheduled to take place at the Nellis Club Ballroom at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Las Vegas drag queens Coco Montrese, Lawanda Jackson and Carnie Asada were announced as headliners.

But according to NBC News, Defense Department leaders told Air Force officials to cancel the event, saying it’s not Pentagon policy to fund drag performances on bases.

Montrese, a drag superstar and fan-favorite “Drag Race” contestant said she was “devastated” by the Pentagon decision, calling it “heartbreaking” and potentially “very dangerous” for the LGBTQ community in the U.S.

“After appearing in the very first try drag show on Nellis Air Force Base back in 2021, I thought that this country was moving in the right direction towards diversity and inclusion for all American people,” the Las Vegas-based performer told the Daily News. “Apparently that’s not the case with some of the highest offices in our government hiding behind bogus decisions to further their agenda against the LGBTQ+ community.”

Montrese said it was “appalling” that officials are trying “to demonize artists — because that’s what drag performers are: artists — and discredit their work … Drag is meant to be fun, lighthearted and uplifting, and instead they are portraying us as something evil that needs to go away,” she added.

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing in late March, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, (R-Fla) questioned Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, about drag story hours being hosted on bases in the U.S. and abroad.

Both men responded saying they didn’t “agree with those.”

When Milley was informed about “Drag-u-Nellis” this week, he became visibly upset, according to NBC News. An Air Force official later confirmed the show had been canceled.

The Human Rights Campaign slammed the decision as a “discriminatory move” that showed Pentagon officials giving in to “bigoted, far-right pressure” on the first day of LGBTQ Pride Month.

“At a time when we are under attack, the Pentagon is ceding to extremist forces focused on taking away our rights,” the head of the organization, Kelley Robinson, told The News in an email. “Leaders responsible for national defense ought to do better. Our people deserve better, the United States military deserves better, and all Americans deserve better.”

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