A drag show originally meant to celebrate the end of Pride month turned into a rallying cry for corporate allyship as dozens of Google employees attended, some of whom booed their employer.
“I don’t usually usually talk about this sort of thing,” began longtime San Francisco-based drag performer Joshua Grannell, as he opened his a multi-performer drag show Tuesday evening from a small stage at a bar in the Castro neighborhood.
“Folks who work at Google put this together and we did this last year and it was fabulous and it was fun and we had a good time,” he continued. “And this year, a group of Christians at Google signed a petition to take this event from their employees because they thought it was upsetting, offensive, controversial.”
“Boo!” yelled dozens of attendees, including several Google employees wearing company “Pride” T-shirts.
Grannell, whose drag performer name is “Peaches Christ” was a planned performer at a drag show sponsored and promoted by Google to close out Pride month. However, as CNBC previously reported, the company removed its affiliation and instead encouraged employees away from the drag show to a new event at its offices. The move came as several hundred employees signed a petition opposing the drag performance, claiming it was offensive to their Christian religion and that they’d complained to human resources.
The company said the event hadn’t gone through the proper approval process but didn’t comment on the petition.
Attendees and Grannell said they viewed the change as a buckling to pressure of the Christian employees’ petition and complaints.
“I was called all sorts of things,” Grannell said on stage, referring to the petition. “Boo!” more attendees yelled. “We support you!” one employee yelled from the crowd.
Both employees and Grannell told CNBC they were disappointed in the company for backtracking, adding that the company held a similar event last year without any problems.
Attendees described Grannell as an “icon” and “an institution” in the gay community.
“I’ve been a performer for nearly 30 years in San Francisco, and I employ hundreds of people, performers and artists across the city,” Grannell told CNBC.
“This thing that happened with Google, unfortunately for this event, is actually indicative of a huge groundswell of hatred across the country using drag queens and trans people a scapegoats,” he told the crowd Tuesday, which garnered more boos and yelling.
Drag shows have been a target of religious and conservative organizations and politicians leading up to the 2024 presidential election. That includes a flurry of legislative proposals backed by GOP governors attempting to limit drag events.
Corporations have also faced backlash for Pride-related marketing. Bud Light came into the crosshairs after it struck a partnership with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney, while North Face received backlash for an ad featuring drag queen Pattie Gonia. Target and Kohl’s have been criticized for Pride-themed clothing.
Following Grannell’s opening monologue, he repeated the reason for the event was to celebrate Pride and then proceeded to introduce the performers on a small stage toward the back of the venue, which held rainbow-colored lights.
The first performer sang in a sequenced Marilyn Monroe-style red dress to Diana Ross’ upbeat “The Boss.” The next performer dawned a large, multi-color coat who danced to Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive.”
A few others followed, with their own unique acts. Some were comedic musical skits, others featured dancing and lip syncing.
“For me, it’s real bummer to see this happen but I also think it needs to be called out,” Grannell told CNBC after the show, referring to Google’s decision to distance itself from the planned event. “If you’re going to put a rainbow flag on stuff and march in the queer Pride parade but not support your queer employees and not take a stand against anti-queer sentiment, even in the name of religion, then you’re not a real ally.”
Grannell said the stakes for a lot of drag performers are high, as some of them have come to rely on corporate sponsorship. “We’ve now created a culture where corporations’ allyship includes paying performers and paying queer people to celebrate Pride month. Google sets a standard for a lot of companies in the industry and in San Francisco,” he added.
Attendees and employees alike danced, cheered and took turns walking dollar bills to the stage throughout the nearly two-hour event.
“You have some work to do, Googlers,” Grannell told the crowd as he ended the show. “We’ve got to keep fighting and we will win—we’re on the right side of history.”
The crowd erupted in applause and cheers.
Google did not respond to a request for comment.