Pride event cancelled over safety concerns due to shocking, hate-filled backlash


Stefani Steel was one of the drag performers set to attend the event. (Instagram)

An LGBTQ+ community event has been reluctantly cancelled amid rising hateful messages directed at organisers and borough officials.

Organisers of LGBTQ+ OutFest in West Chester, Pennsylvania, shut down the event ahead of it’s scheduled date on 1 October due to an overwhelming level of pushback from anti-LGBTQ+ groups.

The Pride event, which would have taken place on Gay Street, aimed to create a sense of unity for queer people in the local area while hosting several big queer performances and talks.

But organisers, who helped schedule the event, felt it was too unsafe to proceed due to the outrage and opted to postpone it indefinitely.

‘Shocked at the amount of hate’

Michael Stefano, president of the West Chester Borough Council told NBC Philadelphia: “I was shocked at the amount of hate we received via email this week. It is clear there are still members of our community that fear anything that is different from themselves.”

He added the decision wasn’t made by the Borough Council and he was “extremely disappointed” that the permit was revoked. It is not explicitly known who cancelled the event and why according to initial reports.

A local Republican committee had told outraged members of the public to voice their anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments toward the event at a local borough council meeting earlier in the week.

In a Facebook post from Friday (16 September), the West Chest Republican Committee told followers to “please make your voice heard to borough council” while falsely calling the event a “drag show“.

While drag would have been present at OutFest, it was not explicitly dedicated to drag performances and showcased many different voices from the LGBTQ+ community.

‘Here to make everyone feel better’

The committee also linked to drag performer Stefani Steel’s Instagram account, who was set to participate in the event. The drag queen commented on the situation in an ABC interview.

“I adapt to what my audiences are. I’m always making sure of who’s in the audience, are there kids in the audience?” Steel said.

They continued that it was a shame the event was cancelled as it can be a place for LGBTQ+ identifying youth to meet friends and like-minded groups, saying: “It’s just nice to talk to people and to tell kids that if you’re going through something, we’re all here to just make everyone feel better.”

The majority of the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric directed at OutFest organisers appears to be consistent with the recent wave of anti-LGBTQ+ groups attacking drag shows that they believe to be “indoctrinating children” despite either not being for kids or being age appropriate.

In particular, drag queen story hour shows have faced fierce levels of scrutiny by groups that misunderstand the meaning behind the events.

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