West Chester’s Outfest canceled over hate-fueled responses

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) — A local borough canceled its first LGBTQ celebration set for next weekend over hate-fueled responses. Many were upset over the planned drag show.

On Monday, the West Chester Borough Republican Committee posted on its social media account that a drag show was going to be held downtown. They included a flyer for Outfest and shared one of the drag performer’s Instagram accounts. They added, “If you feel this is inappropriate as we do, make your voice heard to borough council.”

Council President Michael Stefano told CBS Philadelphia that members of the council received a ton of emails.

“Pretty much outrage that this event was going to go on,” Stefano said. “And the outrage really revolved not just the event, but the fact that there were going to be drag queens at the event.”

That outrage and the fear of what might happen despite the absence of any threats resulted in the rescinding of the permit for the event, canceling it.

“They compared drag queens and the fact that there would be drag queens at a community event where children might be to sexualizing children and groom children,” Stefano said.

The performer whose Instagram page was shared by the Republican committee, Stefani Steel, was slated to perform at the event.

“Every show that I run, I’m always like, ‘What is the audience like? Who’s in the audience?’ I’m looking around, like is there kids?” Steel said. “Because I’m going to adapt and act differently to every audience.”

Steel says their Instagram page is for adults, not children. Her shows, as she explained depend on the audience. She says when she’s performing, she’s just like a Disney character and she says this all could have been avoided.

“It could have been if you’re not into it, if you don’t think it’s right for your kids, don’t come,” Steel said.

The West Chester Borough Republican Committee could not be reached for comment, but they did post on its social media accounts Thursday saying, in part, “mild criticism and concern about the appropriateness of a community event does not constitute hatred or even terrorism as some have alleged. We never encouraged threats implicitly or explicitly.”

Meanwhile, Stefano says that it is a goal of his, following the events of this week, to have an Outfest-style event in some way, shape or form in West Chester in the future.

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