By Sabrina Hornung
Photo by Brooklyn Ewing, Dirt Candy Productions
Anti-LGBTQ group targets all-ages drag performers
On June 13, Chris Stoner received a strange notification on their business profile, Miss Janessa Jaye Champagne. “ I was confused at first, because I didn't recognize the group name, but once I looked at the post it was pretty clear what sort of trash they were peddling.” Stoner said.
Stoner, who also goes by their stage name, Janessa Jaye Champagne, is a veteran of the drag community. They started their performance career in Gerand Forks and have been performing for over two decades, “Somehow I’m still a fresh-faced girl of 23, don’t ask me how that works.”
Jokes aside, this isn’t the first time they have experienced adversity. The post they referred to was a call-out post from a relatively new anti-LGBTQ group opposing an upcoming all-ages drag show slated to take place on the steps of the Capitol this weekend during the Capitol Pride festivities.
“I gave up on the myth of North Dakota nice a long time ago. I mean, I think that I have seen enough harassment and terrorizing against not only performers, but just against queer people in general. But there's something about this, that sort of harkens back to an earlier time..” They went on to say, “I feel like people really are kind of regressing, they're bringing out these tired old stereotypes. Trying to equate queerness with pedophilia, all these kinds of things..it really feels like things we experienced at the beginning of my career.”
The aforementioned Facebook group is, “Protect North Dakota Kids” and it was started June 5, 2022.
According to a group administrator, who responded via Facebook Messenger said, “We have been doing work around the state prior to that, but not in a fully organized way. Our work is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to expose evil.”
According to that admin, the group is based primarily in the central part of the state, “Bismarck, Minot, and in between.” With contacts in Fargo as well and the page is labeled a “Political and nonprofit organization” on their social media platforms, at press time there were 69 followers on their instagram and 107 on their facebook page. Both of which have images posted of featured performers slated to perform at an all-ages drag show on the Capitol steps Saturday afternoon.
The posts feature not only promotional photos of the performers but photos from their personal social media profiles as well, with a caption reading, “Continuing our series exposing the drag queens that are coming to corrupt the youth of Bismarck, N.D. this Saturday. (name), of (town). Stage name. (name), why do you feel compelled to dress 1520 words like a woman and dance for children? By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.1 John 3:10”
The only performer they are not targeting is a 17 year old participant. Other posts, specifically on their Instagram account, are vehemently anti-LGBTQ, targeting local government figures and organizations supporting Pride Month and urging followers to provide tips regarding “LGBTQ and CRT propaganda in North Dakota” via direct message.
One story that they referred to as a “victory” on their Instagram was a screenshot from Dubois County Pride located in Indiana stating, “We regretfully announce that due to safety and security concerns, the family-friendly drag performance planned for Pride in the Park has been canceled.” The screenshot was embellished with “Gloria a Dios” and a large “AMEN!” text.
According to that admin, their mission lies within, “Standing up against LGBT and CRT indoctrination through schools and other means. This is brought out through protesting at drag queen events for children, educating parents on dangerous books in libraries, and also gathering and sharing information about local political candidates that people would need to know. As for transparency we do not see it as very important at this time.”
Ironically enough, they just highlight the political candidates who support LQBTQ issues, not those in opposition. They also created an event to protest the drag show but urged attendees to DM the group instead of posting publicly due to “hostility to the idea of protecting N.D. kids.”
When we asked for more elaboration on the organization's preference to remain anonymous we questioned the irony of them exposing the identity of the performers.. Which is a cause of concern for their general safety– some of the performers even referred to the post experience as being doxxed.
They insisted that they did not dox anyone, that they didn’t include too many specifics, with the exception of Stoner’s email, which they mentioned they apologized for and removed the screenshot.
All of the information they found about the performers was online.
Stoner had a metaphor for the situation.
“All of the information about how to build a bomb is on the internet. But if I go and compile the information on how to build a bomb, and I then push that information into a group that is advocating for civil disobedience and civil destruction and domestic terrorism, I have committed a crime because I am taking that information to people who are going to use it, so I have that liability. So the argument that it's, you know, all public information – in some ways, yes. But they're pulling it from places where we have curated our audience and then taking all this information and posting it to a hostile group– there have been threats… and they don't understand the liability,” they said.
“Our goal in the exposure is simply to inform the community who is willfully choosing to come here and dress like a woman to dance for children. We believe that to be morally evil,” said the anonymous admin.
As a performer and producer, Stoner said performances for an all ages drag show are very different from other performances. This greatly informs their costuming, choreography and song choice.
“Any performer that doesn't know how to put together an all ages-appropriate number probably shouldn't perform in that show, but I've never encountered that. I've always worked with performers able to tailor their performance to the specific audience that they were performing for.” They went on to say, “The reason why they're concerned about this is they just feel that queerness itself is inappropriate.”
The anonymous admin went on to say, “Another thing is the way that it mocks women. Women are not a costume and are part of God's wonderful creation. People would not be in support of black face performance. What is the difference when a man puts on a woman's face?”
“From my experience, I can say that I've never met a drag performer, who was doing it because they wanted to mock or degrade women. From my experience, I was raised by women, I had a single mother. When my mother was working, I was raised by my mother's mother. And so I was surrounded by strength from both my mother and my grandmother. Those are pieces that have gone into my personal strengths and that resilience that I got from them.” Stoner said.
When asked if there was a message that Stoner could send to the folks behind the anonymous postings of “Protect North Dakota Kids,” what would they want to say?
“I've been out since 2001, I have seen every kind of ugliness, nothing that they could deliver or be anything now. I think the thing that still upsets me when situations like this come up. I remember being raised in a community like that, not in a household like that, because that's part of what really gave me the strength to come out. All of that was family support.”
Stoner continued, “But, you know, I came from a very small minded small town community. And I know that some of these people who are part of these groups have children. And I know that some of them probably have children who are queer or trans and are terrified to come out, and feel this deep, deep sense of not belonging to the family that's supposed to love and support. And so these people who are claiming to want to protect children are harming and traumatizing their own children. And I think if they really claim that they want to be about love, then be about love, that's what I would say. Be about love. Look at yourself, look at your own family, before it's too late.”
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