Family-friendly drag show in Victoria cancelled after violent threats

·2 min read
Organizers say they were forced to cancel a family-friendly drag show in Victoria due to threats of gun violence.  (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)
Organizers say they were forced to cancel a family-friendly drag show in Victoria due to threats of gun violence. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)

Organizers of a family-friendly drag show at a Victoria café have cancelled the event after the café owner says staff were inundated with homophobic and transphobic phone calls.

The monthly Sashay Café drag show was scheduled to go ahead this Saturday at Caffe Fantastico.

Café owner Ryan Taylor said staff received many hateful calls, but one call on Tuesday turned especially aggressive when the caller threatened to "shoot up the place and everyone in it."

After that call, Sashay Café organizers decided to cancel the event and the incident was reported to Victoria police.

Taylor said staff had been logging calls, which he said expressed homophobic sentiments and mischaracterized the event as "trying to groom children to be gay."

"Our team was doing its best to try and sort of counter that ignorance and explain that this is a simple dress-up show," said Taylor. "It's not by any means lewd or anything but positive."

He says the threats to his café came from far-right extremists and are reflected by similar scares to pride events in the United States. A 17-year-old Canadian was arrested and charged for threats to commit a mass shooting at a pride event in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Taylor said two of the phone calls logged by staff came from local numbers.

Victoria police said in a statement they are investigating two separate reports.

"It is very disappointing to learn of these deeply concerning calls and the impact that they have had on staff, event organizers and those who were looking forward to this event," said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Ames.

Police say they are keeping café staff and organizers updated and supported.

Taylor says the Sashay Café event, which features performers doing musical numbers in drag, encourages participants to express themselves.

"It's for people who are looking for an avenue for expression and a safe place," he said.

Taylor said rising homophobic and transphobic sentiments are a particularly tough blow as people are emerging from a pandemic.

"To be trying to finally feel like you're coming out the other side and trying to have some sense of normalcy, an attack like this is really kicking you when you're down," he said.

"It just brings me to tears."

While Taylor understands why the event's organizers would not want to be in the limelight at this time, he hopes for more pride events to lift people's spirits.

"To show these perpetrators of hate that it's not acceptable. They're not going to win," he said.

"They need to be condemned at every single step along the way, and they need to know their attitudes are not tolerable and that they cannot be part of our society."

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