A Year of Hate: Anti-Drag Mobilisation Efforts Targeting LGBTQ+ People in Australia

Authors: Elise Thomas

Published: 25 March 2024

This is one of the country profiles of a series looking at anti-LGBTQ+ mobilisation in the US, UK, Australia and France.

The Executive Summary is available here.

Drag Queen Story Hours (DQSH) and similar drag events for child audiences have been held in libraries across Australia for several years. In previous years these events were mostly uncontroversial and the response to them positive, despite some critical commentary from right-wing media and politicians. In late 2022 and over the course of 2023, however, the situation changed.  

Inspired by increasing transphobic and anti-drag rhetoric and conspiracy theories about drag performers emanating from the US, a loose network began to mobilise to disrupt all-ages drag events in Australia. At least a dozen events across the country were targeted with online harassment and/or offline protest between September 2022 and February 2024, and likely more which were not publicly reported on. This is occurring in the context of broader anti-LGBTQ+ hate and mobilisation, including incidents during WorldPride celebrations in Sydney, which ran from 17 February to 5 March 2023; a violent mass attack on pro-LGBTQ+ protesters on 21 March; and the attendance of neo-Nazis at an anti-trans rally in Melbourne on 18 March.  

This country profile uses analysis of open sources including social media content (primarily from Facebook and Telegram), protest footage and media interviews to examine the growth of anti-drag hate and harassment in Australia. It breaks down the groups and influencers involved into four broad categories: fringe politicians and far right media; conspiracy theory groups left over from the anti-lockdown movement; neo-Nazis; and Christian groups active in anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrations.  

Mobilisation against DQSH events remains contained to very fringe groups and communities in Australia. The most significant risks it poses are firstly to drag performers and the LGBTQ+ community via hate speech and targeted harassment and the chilling effect on venues which may choose not to hold drag events out of concern about the reaction; secondly, the further radicalisation of groups and individuals who are already enmeshed in extreme beliefs; and thirdly, the impact on grassroots democratic institutions such as local councils.  

While Australia undeniably has its own long history of discrimination against LGBTQ+ communities, the recent spike in harassment, protests and targeting of LGBTQ+ and drag performers in Australia is directly influenced by transphobic rhetoric, disinformation and conspiracy theories emanating from the United States and United Kingdom. 


Shared Endeavour Fund: Theory of Change

The Theory of Change for the Shared Endeavour Fund was crafted to guide the design, delivery, and evaluation of the fund, unpacking the causal processes, assumptions & evidence supporting its implementation and outcomes.