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Drag show cancelled because it featured artists with Down syndrome

Drag show cancelled because it featured artists with Down Syndrome.
Photo credit:
Drag Syndrome - Twitter

Peter Meijer, the owner of the Tanglefoot Building in Grand Rapids, Michigan canceled a drag show because it features entertainers with Down syndrome. 

The British troupe of performers known as Drag Syndrome were scheduled to appear on August 19, but Meijer, who is also running for Congress, pulled the plug because he felt the actors were being "exploited."

“The differently abled are among the most special souls in our community, and I believe they, like children and other vulnerable populations, should be protected,” Meijer wrote in the letter according to LGBTQ Nation

He said he made his decision after speaking with artistic members of the LGBT community and people who have personal ties with those living with the disability. 

One point in Meijer's letter is questioning the actor's consent in doing drag. 

“The involvement of individuals whose ability to act of their own volition is unclear raises serious ethical concerns that I cannot reconcile,” he wrote. “I cannot know, and neither can the audience."

The advocacy group for artists with disabilities known as DisArt took Meijer to task in a statement on August 22. In their address DisArt pointed to the many accolades and accomplishments some of the troupe actors have acquired throughout their career, including a Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival.

"Exclusion is discrimination," they wrote, "it is self-preservation, it is exploitation for political gain. It is not protection."

But Meijer says his decision was not a political maneuver. 

"If this was a political decision, I would have gone public immediately. I didn’t," he told Fox 17. "I handled this privately because I care about doing what’s right. But DisArt leaked my letter to ArtPrize so they could sell more tickets, and here we are."

ArtPrize is a Michigan-based international art competition that encourages "critical discourse" and "cultural understanding." 

They released a statement in opposition of Meijer. 

"Alongside a great deal of positive response, the news of Drag Syndrome’s participation has recently motivated groups to coordinate a campaign of communications calling for their performance to be canceled. The ArtPrize organization has always supported free artistic expression by all participants and has not denied or screened individuals. Consistent with this, we believe it would be inappropriate to limit the participation of performers who have Down syndrome."

Justin Bond who is a member of Drag syndrome responded to the controversy via Instagram.

“I don’t want people in America to think that Daniel is abusing us,” Bond said in the video, Daniel is their creative director.  “I know most Americans think it’s terrible. You’ve got Down syndrome, you don’t have what it takes.”

“But I think we do have what it takes because we deserve the right to be in drag and to perform.”

Drag Syndrome will go on as soon as they secure another venue.