U.S. State Department Gives Drag Show Grants to Ecuador

Please take a moment to read that headline again. No, it is not clickbait. No, it is not sensationalized. Yes, it is absolutely true – I double and triple fact-checked it because I didn’t believe it – couldn’t believe that our country would pay another country simply to further an agenda.

Here are the facts: According to the State Department’s grant list, a $20,600 grant was paid to a non-profit supported by the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador, Centro Ecuatoriano Norteamericano (CEN), on September 23 to enhance their “public diplomacy program.”

It says that the program the funding is tied to aims: “To support the achievement of U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives, advance national interests, and enhance national security by informing and influencing foreign publics and by expanding and strengthening the relationship between the people and government of the United States and citizens of the rest of the world.”

Sounds reasonable, right? But language is a tricky thing, and this language appears to be just smoke and mirrors. The reality is that the money is allotted to CEN, to “host 3 workshops, 12 drag theater performances, and produce a 2-minute documentary.” The grant listing on the USAspending.gov website says that the funds began September 30 and will run until August 31, 2023.

A spokesperson for the State Department said that CEN supports “a wide range of strategic programs in Ecuador” that focuses on diversity and representation, and that the goal of the CEN program is to “promote tolerance” and “provide new opportunities for LGBTQI+ Ecuadorians to express themselves freely and safely.”

The spokesperson then went on to say, “LGBTQI+ people across the globe deserve to live in societies free from targeted violence and discrimination. Recent data suggest an alarming and deadly rise in violence against LGBTQI+ persons in Ecuador. The program will advance key U.S. values of diversity and the inclusion of LGBTQI+ communities as well as promote the acceptance of communities that are disproportionately affected by violence.”

Excuse me if I’m a little dumbfounded by this. I have several questions for my politicians:

  1. When did it become appropriate for the U.S. to fund drag shows in another country?
  2. Is there any scientific data that shows drag shows promote tolerance? That they educate the general public on LBGTQ needs? Because in my experience, drag shows are a form of entertainment, and not one people who hate that community are likely to frequent. So if you’re really trying to teach tolerance, how does that work exactly when your audience is nowhere near your drag show?
  3. If Ecuador is having problems with violence against the LBGTQ community – which is horrible, no doubt – why aren’t they dealing with it through their legal system? Why aren’t they sending a strong message that hate crimes won’t be tolerated?
  4. Why is the U.S. pushing a blatant agenda on another country, one that has absolutely nothing to do with goodwill or safety, or education, or anything that might jeopardize their country or our own?
  5. How is our government able to hide drag show money within the language of “enhancing national security”?

You have a long way to go to convince me that this is money well-spent. And you have a longer way to go to convince me that it is in anyway the responsibility of the U.S. to get involved, let alone in such a ridiculous way. And yes, it is ridiculous. Unless and until there are scientific studies demonstrating that drag shows lead to kindness toward the LBGTQ community, what in the world are we doing funding such a thing? In Ecuador? Don’t they have greater needs? Don’t we?

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Rebecca Becker

Rebecca has been a lifelong writer committed to telling stories that illuminate special people, places, and causes. She writes for local, regional, national, and international publications and is based in Houston. She’s been a lifelong Christian dedicated to bringing that perspective forth and keeping the Christian voice within the larger conversation.