‘It’s a scary time’: Local drag performer on receiving end of national right-wing hate

Sabryna Williams has been dealing with the fallout from an online attack after the right-wing media seized upon a video of a child dancing at a drag brunch.

For the second time in the past few months, hateful followers of right-wing media have set their sights on Palm Springs. This time, a local drag performer is being targeted after a video of a child dancing at a popular brunch was posted online.

The original video — which The Post has chosen not to link to — was taken on July 4 at Oscar’s Palm Springs. It was posted on July 7 by drag performer Sabryna Williams on their TikTok. It shows Williams dancing with another drag queen and the girl as brunch-goers cheer them on.

The video was re-posted on Aug. 2 by the account “Libs of TikTok” to its 1.3 million Twitter followers. Thousands of replies to the video called it “child abuse” and a “pedo party” and said they “can’t wait for the day these shows are illegal.”

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From there, the video took off. Several mainstream and fringe right-wing websites wrote about the video with inflammatory headlines, including Fox NewsThe Daily Caller, and The Post Millennial.

In the past, people, businesses, and government bodies flagged by these outlets were targeted by far-right groups, including The Proud Boys and Patriot Front. That does not appear to be happening in this case, but fears are running high that it could happen soon.

Williams said Wednesday that they have been dealing with the fallout from an online attack after the right-wing media seized upon the video.

“I’ve been having to delete comments on my Instagram all day where people were calling me a pedophile and disgusting,” Williams said. “I’ve been doing this for 22 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

The saddest part for Williams is that commenters on the right-wing websites are twisting and manipulating a video of a girl just having fun at a Fourth of July drag brunch. 

“It’s the middle of the day. There were a bunch of other kids there, and that girl was dancing her heart out to every song,” Williams said. “I asked her if she wanted to come on stage, and she went right on up there.

“It’s just another form of homophobia we have to deal with because people are afraid of things they aren’t used to. We’ve lost all sense of morals and forgotten how to treat other people.”

One audience member at the July 4 show said the hateful targeting had sent shockwaves through members of the city’s large drag community, which has faced little backlash while delighting audiences throughout the city for years.

“For me, it’s terrifying,” said the audience member who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of attack from the far-right. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while because I’m a drag performer too, and we’re all scared.”

This latest incident is the second time Palm Springs has been the target of right-wing hate in the last few months. In April, Palm Springs City Council members, city staff, and others in the community received death threats after Tucker Carlson told his viewers about the universal basic income pilot program that would prioritize low-income transgender and non-binary people. 

Lately, right-wing legislators and media have called drag performers, LGBTQ teachers, and librarians “groomers.” The word harkens back to age-old homophobic attacks that claim LGBTQ people put children in danger by grooming them for sexual activity. 

The rhetoric has escalated to such a fever pitch that lawmakers have successfully passed anti-LGBTQ laws targeting schools, and schools nationwide are banning books with queer themes.

Williams said they and other performers are on high alert in this tense climate. 

“We have to take this into consideration when we’re out at clubs performing,” said Williams. “I make sure I know where all the exits in the building are.”

Williams is worried that the next time their friends and family members bring kids to her shows “they could be caught on camera and called pedophiles. They shouldn’t have to worry about that.”

This isn’t the first time Williams has been targeted during 20 years of performing. 

“When I started, we were having eggs thrown at us, slurs thrown at us no matter where we went,” they recalled. “We got used to it.”

However, these kinds of accusations and abuse are different. 

“This is a whole new level,” said Williams. “I know younger performers who won’t even walk from the venue to their car in drag, let alone walk down the street.”

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