A hate group's influence in Tucson

Gays Against Groomers strikes in Tucson

In this week's newsletter: The city's zoo cancelled a Pride event at the request of a far-right LGBTQ+ hate group; Being Gay and Republican during Pride month; The gay Republican harassed by MAGA folk in AZ speaks out; And a new In-Queer-sitive game for the week!

LITERALLY "GAG"-GED: This Friday, the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson planned to host a Pride night open to the public. On its invite page, the zoo said it was going to have opportunities for youth and their parents to "search for the whole rainbow of colors," and there would be "incredible performances" by three local drag queens.

But a week later, the zoo quietly removed the mention of any drag, and told the three performers that they wouldn't be working the event due to security reasons. Specifically , there were "threats to the staff and animals," according to Isis. D. Frost, one of the drag performers who was slated to perform.

The other two performers, Kriss Dikay and Roxi Starr, both confirmed that the zoo told them there were threats made against them and they cancelled the event.

Online, the group Gays Against Groomers-Arizona took credit for the change. The local chapter is part of a national LGBTQ+ group aligned with other hate groups such as Moms for Liberty, or far-right political groups like Turning Point USA. The organization is made up of almost exclusively Republicans, and have built a reputation on calling members within their community pedophiles for performing drag in public. When confronted on the threats to staff or animal safety, Robert Wallace, the local chapter leader, said it wasn't coming from his group and denounced any violence.

Neither the zoo nor Wallace would offer up the email chain sent by GAG that influenced why the zoo canceled its drag performance. Which makes it questionable on who is telling the truth: did the zoo, indeed, get threats to their safety, or did they just not want bad press from far-right news outlets, considering GAG's social media reach?

However it played out between the two, the victims in this story are the drag performers who not only lost a job, but continue to be the punching bag for our community.

Larry Cook, who performs as Roxi Starr, said he was unaware that the group was responsible for his performance being cancelled. After reviewing Wallace's statement as well as the zoo's public response, he said he understood why the zoo cancelled, but didn't feel that they stood up for them. He said that it's time the community stood up for itself more publicly.

When performer Kriis DiKay was shown the posts made by Gays Against Groomers that praised their efforts to remove the show, it was upsetting, but noticed that it could spark action.

"I was not aware of the bragging, which can easily push us to a movement," DiKay said.

LOOKOUT'S TAKE: There needs to be a bit of a history lesson in the term "groomer." For one, the word has been tossed around so much in politics and talk shows that it has lost its meaning, and has more insidious roots.

"Grooming" a child is an act of sexual violence. By definition, it is an action that tricks children and their families into trusting someone while they pursue sexual acts against a child. There are numerous examples of grooming, from various church leaders across the nation abusing young congregants to the lawsuits against Boy Scouts of America, which hid that adults were sexually abusing young boys.

"Grooming" is a serious term that has serious consequences.

That being said, when speaking to drag performers on this topic since the state first introduced a drag ban in the legislature last year, there has been considerable fear to push back against people who use the word against them.

In one interview I had, a performer said she was threatened at her home and decided she wouldn't advocate for herself in public, anymore; she never called the police out of fear of the police having the same views. Another performer said that her tires were slashed outside a bar in Tucson, and was too afraid to call the police because her perception was that they also might not support her.

So despite the reality that "grooming" isn't happening with drag, the consequences of using the term against the community are becoming real and dangerous for people being attacked with that label.


  • STILL VOTING TRUMP: (opinion) At the Turning Point USA fest in Phoenix, a gay Black Republican was jeered and verbally assaulted by a crowd of MAGA-folks. In Newsweek, he explains that he is still voting for Trump, despite the overwhelming shift of the party against him. Newsweek
  • BEST BOOKS: Antigone Bookstore in Tucson was rated one of the best LGBTQ+ bookstores in America. Oprah Daily


  • BIDEN PARDONS: Biden is set to pardon thousands of ilitary service members who were convicted in a court martial for engaging in same-sex relationships. ABC News
  • GAY AND REPUBLICAN: What's the history of conservatism among LGBTQ+ people? In a Vox one-on-one, an author with a new book explains the back story. VOX
  • ELDER TROUBLES: The aging LGBTQ+ community has considerable issues in maintaining their healthcare and struggle with isolation later in their life, studies find. NBC News


Test your knowledge of this week in queer news! Answer the question below related to a story in this week's newsletter and get entered into a raffle to win LOOKOUT swag at the end of each month. The more times you play, the more chances you get to win!

What is the name of the gay man who was assaulted at a far-right festival in Phoenix this year?

Submit your answer here

Last week's question: What SPLC-designated hate group put on an event that the Maricopa County Attorney attended?

Last week's answer: Moms for Liberty


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