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The U.S. military is hosting a drag show at a family-friendly festival at Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) at the end of July.
JBLE is hosting its first ever “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summer Festival” on July 30, featuring a series of performances and speeches, including a poem on “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” and a drag show by Joshua Kelley, who performs under the moniker Harpy Daniels.
The festival was first proposed by the JBLE Breaking Barriers Alliance, a committee comprised of volunteer service members under the base’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. At least one top base official, Colonel Gregory Beaulieu, the installation commander, signed off on the event and approved the use of military resources, a JBLE spokesman told The Daily Wire.
The festival is advertised as a family-friendly event, including “bouncy houses and face painting for the children,” according to an event description. The event, which will feature performances by several cultural groups, is billed under the theme “Celebrating Differences.”
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have gained ground in the military in recent years, a development that critics say is gutting the unity, meritocracy, and mission readiness of the U.S. military. Rep. Mike Ghallager (R-WI), the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel, said in a February speech that DEI initiatives are undermining the military’s strength.
“Diversity may be a strength for America, but it cannot be an organizing principle for the Pentagon. Actual strength — physical strength, mental strength, and overall end strength — is our strength,” he said. “DEI initiatives risk sapping this strength. By co-opting the Woke Left’s obsession with racial and gender diversity, the Pentagon’s DEI evangelists are ironically stifling the very type of diversity that might improve military performance: intellectual diversity.”
The U.S. Air Force created an Office of Diversity and Inclusion in January last year. In February of this year, Bishop Garrison, a senior advisor to the secretary of defense, called DEI in the military a “force multiplier.” Garrison argued that DEI programs aid the military in recruiting candidates from diverse backgrounds with skill sets that the military can take advantage of.
“It’s not just something that has to be done because of some type of cultural ideology or culture wars that are going on — that’s not the case at all. It is, again, not diversity for diversity’s sake,” Garrison said.
The JBLE event’s central theme is “celebrating differences,” and its purpose is ensuring “every Airman, Soldier and civilian feels valued,” JBLE told The Daily Wire in a statement.
“The goal is to provide education and awareness, increase collaboration through outreach, and recognize the diverse composition of JBLE. The theme of the event is ‘Celebrating Differences’ and will feature a number of different performers, guest speakers, and information booths, including Tuskegee Airman, Asian Indians of Hampton, a hula routine, a drag performance, and many others,” the JBLE statement said.
“All featured guests will be participating or performing as volunteers. The installation assisted by providing funding for logistical requirements, such as a tent, stage, tables and chairs, etc., as specifically authorized by DoD regulations and policies. JBLE leadership is committed to celebrating differences and cultivating an inclusive environment where every Airman, Soldier and civilian feels valued,” it continued.
In addition to the public promotions, the festival was advertised to all who work at JBLE, civilian and military, through a mass email. A person who works at JBLE and received an invite to the festival was furious over the military-sponsored drag show for an event advertised for families.
“It’s burlesque, it’s hyper-sexualized, it’s not something appropriate for children,” said the person, who requested to not be named over potential retaliation from base officials.
Kelley, the drag performer scheduled to appear at JBLE, joined the Navy in 2016 in part because he needed a stable income to fund his drag hobby, he told the Navy Times in 2018.
“Doing drag allows me to embrace my feminine side and allows me to bring my diversity and creativity out. When I put on a face, it’s a face of art and creativity, not just a face of make-up. To hear people cheer, laugh or cry, or even join in with you during a performance is an absolute thrill,” he said.
Kelley’s professional Instagram page features dozens of photos of him in drag, many of them heavily sexualized. Some of the photos show Kelley nude, though the photos themselves appear to not violate Instagram’s nudity policies.
Drag shows for children have become a lightning rod of public debate in recent months. Critics have denounced such shows and events as inappropriate and potentially criminal abuses of children. Such burlesque shows are typically heavily sexualized.
The controversy over “family friendly” drag shows has inspired legal action in Florida. The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation filed a complaint on Tuesday against a Miami bar that hosted such an event. One video that surfaced online showed a young girl walking hand-in-hand with a drag queen wearing what appeared to be fake breasts covered only with pasties.