'I'm worried for my community': Ontario drag queen concerned about growing threats, harassment

WATCH: A Guelph, Ontario drag queen is raising concern about what says is a sudden surge in harassment and threats targeting drag performers. Caryn Lieberman reports.

Longtime Guelph, Ont., drag queen Crystal Quartz took to TikTok to plead for help following what she referred to as a “campaign of hate” targeting drag performers in the province.

“Recently myself and other drag queens and promoters across Ontario have been targeted from an anti-LGBT, anti-drag queen group that’s been threatening to come and ruin our events, bully us, harass us and even threaten to hurt our clients,” she said in the video.

Quartz travels to venues in cities across Ontario, including popular restaurant chains, where she performs drag shows at brunches and other special events with up to 100 guests in attendance.

“I create safe and inclusive spaces so that people can feel free to be themselves. And I started noticing the threats to myself on October 30th … and then that kind of fizzled out and then they threatened me again after the Colorado Springs episode on the weekend,” she said.

Last month, a shooting at Club Q, a Colorado LGBTQ2 nightclub, left five people dead and at least 19 others injured.

“It’s almost like nothing can be done until somebody gets hurt, shot, stabbed, something. And that’s where I’m having the issue,” said Quartz.

She said she contacted police in Guelph more than once.

“They can troll around the areas and be on site but until what I’ve gathered, until there’s actual violence caused, they can’t do anything and to me, that’s scary,” she said.

Global News reached out to Guelph police but there was no response to a request for comment.

“Crystal is not the only one experiencing this,” said Dean Lobo, communications co-ordinator at the 519 in Toronto, an organization dedicated to advocacy for the inclusion of 2SLGBTQ+ communities.

“A lot of folks within 2SLGBTQ+ communities feel threatened, fearing for their lives in the light of not just Club Q, but a lot of other attacks we’re seeing both locally in the U.S. and across the world and it’s important to know that Canada is not immune to such violence,”

Lobo said drag artists and drag culture are an important part of 2SLGBTQ+ communities and policymakers and authorities need to listen to them when they say they do not feel safe and take action.

“Even speaking about Club Q, it’s an example that hate is just rising in the face of extremism and this is not the first attack that we’ve seen. We’ve seen many in the past. And the few spaces that 2SLGBTQ+ communities have to gather, feel safe are also under attack and I think there is a very, very important need to keep those spaces sacred, to keep them safe,” he added.

“I’m worried for my community. No one should ever have to be scared to just go to their job,” said Quartz.

Recently, an incident forced the venue where she was due to perform to cancel the show.

“They cancelled, they were so scared of the safety of their patrons and granted, absolutely, I totally understand that,” she said. “All the hard work that I put into this and making people feel safe, now people are not feeling safe.”

Quartz takes issues with anti-LGBTQ2 groups who claim her drag shows are inappropriate for children.

“They’re discriminatory before they’ve even met me because if they met me, I’m sure they would love me, because I’m just a ball of positive light. I just like to make people smile and laugh and feel good,” she said. “I make these spaces children-friendly. I do things like Mary Poppins and any Disney characters, I’m here to make children’s eyes light up and feel safe and comfortable.”

Quartz is now considering taking a self-defence course and hiring security to protect herself and her clients.

“It’s snowballing and it’s getting scarier and scarier and everybody is kind of scared to stand up…. I basically just put a red target on my back but somebody has got to do something and somebody has got to speak up for our community.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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