The four-day drag summer camp for youth aged seven to seventeen is taking place at Carousel Theatre on Granville Island beginning July 4, which has sparked heavy criticism in the community and drew in dueling protests on Tuesday.
The description of the drag summer camp listed on the theater's website states, "Drag Queens, Drag Kings, Drag Things and anything in between are all welcome at Drag Camp!"
"Do you enjoy expressing yourself through clothing, makeup and performance? Do you have an alter ego that is just waiting to hit the stage? Our new two week senior Drag Camp might be just your cup of tea, honey! Led by some of Vancouver’s established and emerging drag artists, you’ll learn how to access your inner confidence, show your true colours, and maybe even let out that inner diva! Join some of Vancouver’s most amazing drag artists and learn how drag can brighten up your life!"
"You might be wondering, is drag for kids? Drag is for everyone! Parents, ask yourself, what’s the difference between what you wear at home versus what you wear at work? You’re doing drag honey, you just don’t know it!" the theater wrote.
The camp, which costs $460 for kids ages 7 to 11 and $900 for ages 12 to 17, will reportedly provide its students with a drag makeup starter kit, according to the website.
While concerned community members arrived to protest the summer camp on Tuesday, they were met by counterprotesters that came to defend the theater from protesters that organizers referred to as so-called "bigots."
According to CTV News, Vancouver city council members and over two dozen community members showed up to the theater on Tuesday to support the kids attending the drag summer camp. Members of a local union handed out LGBTQ Pride-themed buttons and donuts, along with stickers that read, "I support Carousel Theatre for Young People."
The outlet reported that less than ten protesters showed up to the theater.
A photo shared by Community over Convoys on Twitter shows two protesters standing with signs that read "LGB says no to 7 year old drag queens" and another that called for the removal of the "trans" and "queer" from the "LGB" community, which added, "Say no to groomers."
Following the protest, the Twitter account, which is a progressive group that called on the community to defend the theater, wrote: "Even with far-right fake media in attendance, anti-2SLGBTQ+ protesters couldn't bring more than 10 bigots out to Granville Island this morning. "LGB drop the TQ" is just "transphobia." "Old school trans" is just "transphobia." And "grooming" is a far-right conspiracy."
The Drag Summer Camp follows immense criticism surrounding the LGBTQ community targeting the youth, which was heightened during recent Pride month events that included adults exposing their genitalia to children on bikes and having the Boys & Girls Scouts of America lead Pride parades.
Heather Turnbull, a member of the theater, told the outlet that she hopes the kids attending the summer camp were empowered by the support the community showed on Tuesday.
"Everyone has the freedom to believe in what they believe in—especially the kids—and to do what they want to do and be who they want to be. It’s all about love and freedom and creativity. Obviously everyone here really supports that and it’s just a beautiful thing to see,” Turnbull said.
According to CTV, an online fundraiser for the camp was created following threats of protests which has since garnered more than $16,000 in less than one week.
City council member Christine Boyle applauded Carousel Theatre for its inclusivity and told the outlet, "It’s sad that this is still a debate that we’re having, but incredibly inspiring to see so many people show up on the side of love and belonging."
"I hope that kids can just show up and be themselves and explore and play and be creative and be all of the parts of themselves without having to fear for their safety or feel like they have to be any smaller than they are," she added.
Before the summer camp officially started, Carousel Theatre defended the drag summer camp on Instagram and wrote, "Consider the way your child might already interact with costumes, clothes and makeup. Drag is a non-judgemental space for kids to understand that these things can be fun for all genders."
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