Joe Biden’s State Department is defending the decision to issue a grant to a cultural center in Ecuador to conduct “drag theater performances.” The administration says the taxpayer funding provided to the South American nation gives LGBTQ people there a way to “express themselves freely and safely.”
The grant sends more than $20,000 to the Centro Ecuatoriano Norteamericano (CEN) to “promote diversity and inclusion” in the area. CEN is a non-profit organization that receives regular support from the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador.
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The new CEN project began last month and runs through August 2023. It will include 3 “workshops,” 12 “drag theater performances,” and the production of a short documentary film.
Fox News reported on the nature of the grant last week. A State Department spokesperson later told the network that the grant is part of a “wide range of strategic programs in Ecuador” that are intended to expose people there to the concepts of diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility.
The statement added that the grant awarded in September to CEN will make use of “the arts” to increase Ecuadoran awareness of the importance the American government places on acceptance of gay lifestyles and transsexualism. The stated goal of the State Department’s sponsorship of the program is to “promote tolerance” in the distant nation.
“LGBTQI+ people across the globe deserve to live in societies free from targeted violence and discrimination,” the statement continued. It cited “an alarming and deadly rise in violence against LGBTQI+ persons in Ecuador” as justification for spending American taxpayer funding on the drag performances.
CEN has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funding over several years, although the recent grant appears to be the first time the money given to the group is designated for drag shows. A 2015 grant provided $234,000 in taxpayer funding to build a new auditorium.
Many Americans have raised concerns in recent months about publicly sponsored drag performances given by men dressed as women, with some “shows” taking place in public elementary schools. It is unclear from the new grant to CEN whether the drag performances to be held will be open to Ecuadorian children.