Promoter Trevor Straub said a protest in downtown Grand Haven was the first such event against their year-old business aside from a complaint by the Holland mayor when the Michigan Drag Brunch troop put on a show in the lakeshore town to the south.
Just under a dozen men lined Harbor Drive at the end of Washington Avenue Sunday afternoon, holding protest signs while the drag queen group put on two performances at the nearby Kirby Grill.
A counter-protest group, made up mostly of women, stationed themselves on the corner across the street from the restaurant.
“Boycott Kirby’s. It’s a drag,” read one sign. “Perverts not welcome,” read another.
Straub said, “The protestors have no idea what they are protesting.”
“It’s an art form,” Straub said. “It’s entertainment. It’s an illusion.”
The promoter explained that the performers dress in drag only for the shows. The rest of the time they are men going about their daily lives. They are not transgender, he added.
Performers Gabriella Galore and Elektra explained that the traveling drag show was performed three Sundays a month across Michigan.
Although this is a for profit company, a portion of the proceeds is donated to HQGR (hqgr.org), a drop-in center where young people ages 14-24 experiencing homelessness can get a shower or hot meal, get help with school or a job, as well as other programming.
Straub said, that in just over a year, Michigan Drag Brunch has donated more than $7,000 to HQ.
Elektra noted that they were used to the conservative views of people in West Michigan.
“We’re locals. We live amongst you,” Galore added.
“And we’re here to entertain,” said Elektra. “For us, it’s a live experience and a chance to help unfortunate youth.”
“Non of us identify as transgender,” Elektra said.
Galore noted that it was more of an advocacy, a chance to raise awareness about people’s differences.
“Everyone who attends the brunch at least leaves learning something new,” Galore said.
Across Washington Avenue, Lindsay Hartman holds a sign that says, “Hate has no home here.”
The Grand Haven resident said people posted information on social media about the protest, so she just showed up to express a counter view.
“The City has to be welcoming and open for everyone,” she said. “It needs to be safe.”
Deborah Melvin, who held a “Do what makes you happy. You are fabulous” sign, said everyone deserves to be happy with who they are.”
She suggested that some of the men across the street probably dressed up in their mother’s shoes or clothing when they were little.
“And now, they’re all against it,” she said.
Jose Ramos, who moved back to Grand Haven recently after living in San Francisco, said he couldn’t stay silent when he saw what was happening.
“This is a community that has so much to offer the world,” he said. “You can’t reach that potential until everyone feels included.”
All of the men holding signs protesting the drag queen brunch refused to make any comments to the media, instead noting, “my sign is my statement.”
Former Grand Haven and now Fruitport Township resident Jerry Wildrom Jr. walked over to let the men know that they had his support.
He glanced at a flyer just handed to him that said, “Keep big city values in big cities. Protect our town. Protect our children.”
“That’s pretty much the main thing – the children, Wildrom said. “People say fear and hate. I don’t fear or hate any of them.”
Wildrom said his concern was that the group, as well as others, was trying to push legitimacy of what they are doing to children at too young an age.
“We don’t need 5-and-6-year-olds trying to figure out what gender they are,” Wildrom said. “I’m not here to push my beliefs on them. I just want to protect the children.”
Michigan Drag Brunch started just under a year and a half ago in Grand Rapids and has two troops performing across the state.
The two shows at the Kirby sold out in a short period of time, Straub said many of the shows sell out within minutes.
More information on the Michigan Drag Brunch is available at midragbrunch.com