Performer at Club Q before shooting among artists working to save drag

A group of drag artists have launched a new coalition in response to attacks on drag expression.

On Wednesday, the group of artists – including Hysteria Brooks, a victim impacted by the Club Q shooting that left five people dead in Colarado in 2022 – announced the launch of Qommittee, “an effort to organize drag artists and fans into a national organization to protect and promote drag,” Scott Simpson, a community organizer with Qommittee, wrote in an email to CNN.

Simpson added that “the organization intends to help drag artists protect themselves from hate and navigate the business side of drag, while advocating for free expression.”

At least 510 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures across the United States in 2023 — a new record, according to American Civil Liberties Union data. More than 40 of those legislative efforts targeted drag performing, classifying them as “adult cabaret” entertainment.

There were 138 hate-motivated incidents - such as harassment, intimidation or assault - relating to drag events and performers between June 2022 and April 2023, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Qommittee aims to provide legal aid, therapy and community support for drag artists.

The ten drag performers who signed the Qommittee’s call to action at launch include victims of hate crimes, like Brooks.

“The trauma that my community has faced since the shooting is really hard to put into words. The work of healing since then has largely been left up to us to handle on our own,” Brooks said in a statement. “We’re trying to put the pieces back together and build something stronger. The lessons we’ve learned are something I want to pay forward and I’m hopeful building this organization can help do that.”

Another Colorado-based drag artist, Tiara Latrice Kelley – who is affiliated with both Club Q as well as Pulse Nightclub, the scene of a mass shooting that killed 49 people in 2016 – said, “What drew me to this project was joy. Things can be so serious out here – and for good reason – but drag is about being real, helping people relax and have a good time too.”

“I wasn’t going to let these hateful people dim my considerable light,” Kelley added. “I hope that people learn about what we’re doing here and decide to join us.”

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