GAY global news

‘Change or don’t perform’: American flag costumes spark controversy at LGBTQ+ hoedown

Written by

The dancers said they were told it “had to do with what was going on in Palestine and the LGBTQ community in America.”

SEATTLE — Organizers of The Emerald City Hoedown are facing backlash after a local line-dancing group said they were asked to change out of their American flag-style shirts at the LGBTQ-friendly event last weekend, where they had been slated to perform.

“I really don’t know what’s going on, or why it would be such a big deal to wear the flag honestly,” said Carly Baker, one of the dancers on Borderline Dance Team. “I am a part of the LGBTQ community. Me and my wife have been married for six years. And so it was really hard.”

Borderline Dance Team is a group of 22 Washington women who routinely volunteer their time to perform at events around Washington. Lindsay Stamp, one of its lead choreographers and dancers, said many of her team’s dancers participated in several workshops at the event throughout the three-day event, put on by the local nonprofit Rain Country Dance Association.

“I will tell you, for the most part, this community was wonderful,” said Stamp.

But when it came time to perform, Stamp said her group was given an ultimatum: either change out of their American flag-style shirts, or don’t take the stage. Dancer Dannika Cody said they were first asked to change only 20 minutes after she’d arrived to downtown Seattle’s Renaissance Hotel.

“The first question out of his mouth, I believe, was ‘Do you have a different shirt to wear?'” said Cody, referring to one of the organizers of the annual hoedown. “He told me that there was some individuals within the community that felt unsafe and bothered, triggered, if you will, by our flag shirts.”

The flag-themed shirts, which don vibrant stars and stripes, contain no words or other symbols.

The dancers questioned organizers after learning their costume had offended some people.

“What we were told was, it had to do with what was going on in Palestine and the LGBTQ community in America,” said Cody.

Stamp added, “At that point, we were told that a small population decided that they were they were going to boycott or protest our performance.”

Even though they didn’t understand the reason for a protest, Stamp said they still intended to perform, despite the pushback — even if they were booed as they got on stage.

“I said, this doesn’t bother me. I understand that. And I respect your opinions, and I respect your feelings. And that is totally OK. But we are a dance team. We don’t take a political stance,” said Stamp.

At that point, Stamp said organizers offered them alternative shirts to wear, but unfortunately, “There was no option to continue wearing our flag shirts.”

“It was… ‘Change or don’t perform,'” said Tanya Duerr, a Borderline Dance team member.

But the performers unanimously refused to change out of their stars and stripes.

To try and understand why such a firm stance was taken, KING 5 asked the team whether any disputes had taken place, or whether a controversial comment was possibly made by a member which could have created any contention.

Duerr and Baker both said no.

In a Facebook comment, Ziadee Cambier, the president of the Rain Country Dance Association, said members of the Borderline Dance Team were not asked to leave the hoedown, and that they are hoping to clear up any misunderstandings.

Event organizers declined an interview when asked by KING 5, and sent a statement reading: “We are in communication with those directly involved.”

Stamp confirmed they have reached out.

“They do extend their apologies,” said Stamp. “And we’re in communication trying to figure out how we want to move forward with this.”

Rain Country Dance Association’s president said that since last weekend’s incident, they have received an extreme amount of online harassment, and even a violent threat. She said Seattle Police Department called the threat “credible.” For that reason, they are focusing on protecting their members’ safety.

KING 5 reached out to Seattle Police Department to confirm they are investigating, but police have not yet returned our request.

“Violence and harassment is not something that we condone towards any person or any group for any reason,” said Stamp.

In the end, the dancers said they were disappointed that a small group of people were allowed to overshadow a performance they had worked so hard for.

“I think part of the disappointment came from interacting with a community that, that we didn’t hesitate to accept and perform for,” said Sharie Peterson, a dancer. “A community who really does value inclusivity that was not also extended to us.” 


Leave a Comment