Armed Community Groups Are Defending Texas Drag Queens From Christian Fascists

On an overcast Saturday within the small North Texas suburb of Princeton, a tiny church-turned-community heart became one of the latest fronts within the far proper’s ongoing tradition campaign towards drag reveals and the broader LGBTQ group.

Masked members of the left-wing group protection group Elm Fork John Brown Gun Membership, clad in black and toting assault rifles and radios, had already staked out positions across the perimeter of the Steve and Judy Deffibaugh Neighborhood Middle earlier than self-described “Christian fascist” Kelly Neidert pulled up along with her personal armed personal safety. A few half-dozen Princeton cops stood watch. Neidert is the pinnacle of the so-called Shield Texas Children (PTK) group, which baselessly claims to be defending kids from “grooming.” In actuality, advocates level out, the group is utilizing false narratives to stoke hatred and violence towards the LGBTQ group.

Different native protesters aligned with PTK, together with far proper influencers with right-wing video streaming service BlazeTV and the “KGB Present” quickly joined. Posting themselves up on one nook of the group heart, the group held indicators with messages perpetuating the far proper’s false “baby groomer” narrative concerning the queens arriving there to carry out for a Princeton Texas Diverse-sponsored drag bingo occasion that afternoon. The occasion, like different drag reveals focused by PTK, didn’t market itself as “child pleasant,” however didn’t limit households from bringing their youngsters.

The scene, whereas undoubtedly removed from the norm for this suburban city of simply greater than 17,000, has been commonplace fare for drag occasions all through Texas for months now since PTK and the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Membership confronted off at a drag brunch event in Roanoke, Texas, in August 2022. That confrontation sparked a wave of far proper drag protests throughout the USA within the run as much as the deadly mass taking pictures at a drag present in Colorado Springs that claimed 5 lives in November.

In Texas, Neidert’s far proper coalition has focused drag occasions at a church in Katy in addition to theaters, venues, and eating places in San Antonio, Grand Prairie and Dallas, as this reporter has documented. Her protest coalition has included neo-Nazi, neofascist, extremist militia, and Christian nationalist teams just like the Aryan Freedom Community, the American Nationalist Initiative, North and Central Texas Proud Boys, This Is Texas Freedom Power, Patriot Entrance, and the New Columbia Motion — some armed with nothing greater than rosaries, some with assault rifles and swastikas.

Neidert claims PTK doesn’t endorse the presence of neo-Nazi teams just like the Aryan Freedom Community (AFN) at her protests. The group threw up Nazi salutes and bore a flag depicting a swastika as they left a protest in Katy in September. In Grand Prairie, an AFN neo-Nazi sporting a swastika patch grabbed at a handgun in his pants pocket in a threatening method.

However Neidert has didn’t condemn different far proper teams who frequent her protests, such because the FBI-designated extremist militia This Is Texas Freedom Power or the Proud Boys, whose leaders are currently standing trial on January 6-related seditious conspiracy fees. She beforehand acquired assist from former Proud Boys lawyer Jason Lee Van Dyke after posting a viral TikTok video displaying a pupil on the College of North Texas (UNT) rebuking her for printing flyers studying, “Criminalize Little one Transitions,” in response to reporting by Steven Monacelli.

Throughout a protest of a drag brunch occasion at BuzzBrews Kitchen in Dallas’s Lakewood neighborhood final month, Neidert advised Truthout that she “had simply realized” concerning the neofascist American Nationalist Initiative, for example, and has but to make a willpower concerning the group. ANI helps the identical type of corporative mannequin of state-controlled employee federations adopted by Benito Mussolini’s fascist Italy. The group additionally helps ending birthright citizenship, repatriation of residents “who refuse to just accept the American identification,” and the energetic suppression of “anti-American sentiment.”

Furthermore, Neidert has been noticed chatting casually with at the very least one obvious member of Patriot Entrance and has referred to as for individuals who attend Delight occasions to be rounded up. Whereas she claims PTK is a nonprofit, neither a federal 990 type nor Inner Income Service letter granting tax exemption could possibly be discovered below variations of the PTK title in on-line databases. It stays unclear precisely the place the group’s funding comes from.

In November, Republican State Rep. Tony Tinderholt employed Neidert’s twin brother, Jake Neidert, as his workplace’s legislative director. Jake Neidert has called for the general public execution of those that take their kids to pull reveals and has been funded by Defend Texas Liberty PAC, a fundraising group tied to West Texas oil billionaires Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks that has poured millions into far proper causes throughout the state. Previous to their PTK and Tinderholt gigs, the twins managed communications for Younger Conservatives of Texas chapters at UNT and Baylor, utilizing the coed group to push anti-trans campaigns at their respective campuses.

Outdoors BuzzBrews in Dallas, Kelly Neidert advised Truthout she was being facetious when she referred to herself on Twitter as a “Christian fascist,” however then later stated she was a part of the New Columbia Motion’s “Girls’s League.” It’s nearly as good an admission of Christian fascism as something: The acute Catholic traditionalist New Columbians need to refound the U.S. as a Christian theocracy, in response to their manifesto, which calls “unnatural equality” “evil” and describes democracy as a “failed experiment.”

“I’ve learn their on-line manifesto. I’ve talked to them extensively. They’re a great group that believes in the identical values I do.”

“I’ve learn their on-line manifesto. I’ve talked to them extensively. They’re a great group that believes in the identical values I do,” Neidert advised Truthout. “I feel that they’re excellent folks.”

A venue in Austin canceled a scheduled drag event below menace of protest from New Columbians a day after the group joined Neidert in demonstrating towards “A Drag Queen Christmas,” which featured performances by two winners of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” outdoors the Texas Belief CU Theater in Grand Prairie in December. The group additionally had a presence outdoors BuzzBrews final month.

Lower than every week previous to the December Grand Prairie protest, the This Is Texas Freedom Power militia joined members of Patriot Entrance, the Log Cabin Republicans and the anti-contraception San Antonio Household Affiliation in protesting an earlier “Drag Queen Christmas” tour cease in San Antonio. This time, Elm Fork was joined by different John Brown Gun Membership chapters in San Antonio and Austin.

Based on a November report by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, there have been at the very least 193 anti-LGTBQ protests within the U.S. in 2022, together with 17 in Texas. That quantity doesn’t embrace the December Christmas drag present protests in San Antonio and Grand Prairie referred to as by Neidert, or pro-LGBTQ occasions just like the one in Austin that have been canceled after being focused by anti-LGBTQ extremists. Police makes an attempt to separate far proper and pro-LGBTQ activists have been inconsistent at greatest, and have led to scuffles and assaults, together with the assault of reporter Monacelli. The Armed Battle Mission studies that demonstrations are greater than 4 occasions extra prone to flip violent when militant far proper teams take part.

LGBTQ organizers and drag performers in Texas and throughout the U.S. are rapidly adapting to this new actuality, upping their operational safety and forming new coalitions with armed group protection teams. Princeton Texas Numerous President John Kusterbeck, who organized the drag bingo occasion on the group heart final month, advised Truthout he and different Princeton Numerous organizers vetted each title who purchased a ticket to their occasion. He turned away two far proper influencers affiliated with BlazeTV and the “KGB Present” who tried to realize entry.

A kind of turned away on the door was Sara Gonzales, who hosts a present on BlazeTV and has partnered with the Texas Household Mission to begin her personal PTK-like group, which she has dubbed “Defend Our Children: Texas.” Gonzales and Tayler Hansen, one other influencer who was current on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, have employed misleading techniques as a way to acquire belief and entry to pull reveals and areas. On the First Christian Church of Katy in September, for example, Hansen disingenuously presented himself as a trans woman to painting the church’s “Clear Closet” mission, which supplies garments for at-risk transgender teenagers, as one thing insidious.

Hansen has since began counting on others to do his soiled work for him. After the drag present at BuzzBrews, Hansen posted video gathered from contained in the occasion by a go-between on his behalf. In Princeton, a “KGB Present” host who Hansen arrived with was turned away on the door. Each Gonzales and the present host introduced Princeton Texas Numerous organizers with a faux Eventbrite ticket they claimed to have purchased off another person, in response to Kusterbeck. A Blaze Media article inaccurately reported that Gonzales had gained entry to the occasion and recorded video inside, when in actuality she merely repurposed video organizers themselves livestreamed on Fb.

Gonzales, Hansen and the Neidert twins are utilizing anti-drag propaganda to push Republican state lawmakers to go draconian anti-LGBTQ laws. Texas lawmakers have already filed at the very least 72 payments focusing on LGTBQ rights this session, according to Equality Texas. The payments search to restrict or ban gender-affirming well being care, prohibit classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identification, and limit drag reveals and performers. Nationally, the American Civil Liberties Union is monitoring at least 310 anti-LGBTQ payments filed on the state degree by Republican legislators throughout the U.S. — a document quantity.

Along with introducing laws that may increase the state’s definition of kid abuse to incorporate offering gender-affirming well being care, Republican State Rep. Bryan Slaton has additionally promised to introduce a invoice this session that may ban kids from attending drag reveals. Three different Republican state representatives have already filed payments that may make it unlawful for a bar or restaurant to host a drag present except it’s categorized as a “sexually oriented enterprise.”

Neidert’s twin brother Jake beforehand labored as a legislative intern for State Consultant Slaton, who, together with the Texas GOP as a whole, has overtly endorsed the Neiderts’ harmful “groomer” rhetoric and has been photographed with a Texas Freedom Force militia member who wielded a barbed wire-wrapped bat outdoors the Roanoke drag brunch occasion in August. Jake Neidert’s new job as a legislative director for State Rep. Tinderholt permits him broad affect over what payments Tinderholt helps. Kelly Neidert, for her half, advised Truthout she was planning to move to Austin to foyer lawmakers on anti-LGBTQ payments this session. Neidert’s PTK has additionally advocated the banning of books about LGBTQ folks and effectively because the instructing of Black historical past and the racial justice motion, dubbed “vital race concept,” in colleges.

However drag performers and the broader LGBTQ group are pushing again, with many advocates vowing to spend the 88th legislative session testifying at committee hearings and lobbying lawmakers. Based on Equality Texas, at the very least 63 payments supporting LGBT rights by Democratic lawmakers have already been filed. Others are combating for LGBTQ rights on the streets, forming new coalitions with armed group protection teams past John Brown Gun Golf equipment.

“We swore an oath to combat enemies overseas and home, and proper now we really feel just like the home half is de facto having an impact on us and attempting to strip away our rights.”

Armed members of Veterans for Equality confirmed as much as defend “A Drag Queen Christmas” outdoors the Aztec Theater in San Antonio in December, for example, some open carrying and others concealing their firearms. “After we first got here in [to the military], we swore an oath to combat enemies overseas and home, and proper now we really feel just like the home half is de facto having an impact on us and attempting to strip away our rights,” Veterans for Equality Cofounder Gen Peña advised Truthout through the protest.

Furthermore, venues internet hosting drag reveals focused by far proper militants are more and more hiring professional private security upfront of protests. Drag performers who can’t afford dear personal safety companies, nevertheless, are discovering they will rely immediately on the group itself.

Drag performer and present coordinator Daphne Rio remembers how LGBTQ-aligned group protection teams confirmed as much as defend her drag brunch occasion final month. “It’s typically that drag is the primary go-to when something is required, whether or not it’s assist in conditions or charities and advantages, we’re normally on the forefront and the primary to be requested to assist out with that, and that I feel is a part of our duty in taking up a public [persona]. So to have a group stand behind us now once we’re the goal and we’d like the assistance, it’s fairly unimaginable, and it makes me really feel very liked. It makes me grateful and in addition eager for our group and drag going ahead,” Rio advised Truthout.

“To have a group stand behind us now once we’re the goal and we’d like the assistance, it’s fairly unimaginable, and it makes me really feel very liked. It makes me grateful and in addition eager for our group and drag going ahead.”

Furthermore, the power amongst Neidert’s protest coalition seems to be waning. Their displaying at drag occasions in Dallas and Princeton in January was considerably fewer than what this reporter witnessed of the coalition’s protests of drag occasions in Katy, San Antonio and Grand Prairie.

Regardless of the far proper protesters’ comparatively small presence outdoors the Princeton group heart, Princeton Texas Numerous’s Kusterbeck stated he was equally grateful for the attendance of armed Elm Fork John Brown Gun Membership members, regardless of adverse feedback on his group’s social media pages. Many attendees of the drag bingo occasion later advised him they felt safer with Elm Fork there, regardless that Princeton police have been additionally monitoring the scene. “They stated they felt it added an additional layer of security,” he advised Truthout.

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