The U.S. Air Force said that a well-known drag queen group was invited to perform on base during a “Diversity Day” celebration because drag is a “symbol of gay pride and unity. But the performance sparked outrage among some airmen who called the drag show “totally offensive and inappropriate.”
Jewels and the Brunchettes performed to a small crowd at the Los Angeles Air Force Base on Aug. 8, the military confirmed.
The Air Force said in a statement to Fox News that “Diversity Day” featured eight cultural groups and was meant to “foster equality and diversity in the workplace.”
Photographs provided to Fox News show an individual wearing a giant wig and sporting form-fitting dresses performing to a sparse crowd underneath the American flag.
“Drag acts to this day represent the struggle for freedom and equality of the LGBT community, while at the same time providing a deep-rooted historical form of entertainment for the LGBT culture,” said Peggy Hodge, a spokesperson for the Office of Public Affairs.
The military said the drag queen group did not include any members of the Air Force.
“Drag queen acts are historically one of the main forms of entertainment in the LGBT culture, having its roots in the earliest of days of the gay rights movement,” Hodge said in a written statement.
“What followed was the brutal beating and jailing of several men dressed as women,” she said. “This is commonly accepted as the start of the gay rights movement in the United States.”
As a result of the Stonewall riots, Hodge said, “the wearing and performing in drag became a symbol of gay pride and unity.”
The Diversity Day celebration also featured a speech by Brigadier General Tammy Smith and included booths representing and honoring a number of ethnic heritages as well as an LGBT booth.
Smith became the first openly gay general after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
An Army spokesman told Fox News that Smith was speaking from an outline and did not have a transcript of her remarks.
The Blaze obtained a partial video of her speech where she asked military personnel to be accepting of diverse cultures and lifestyles.
“I would ask you to also give space to people to be authentically who they are so that they have the opportunity to replace to move a little bit what might be a stereotype and replace it with who they are authentically,” she said.
One airman, who asked not to be identified, told Fox News he was offended by the performance and said it had no place on a military base.
“I am really surprised that this happened on a military installation,” the airman told Fox News. “I get that people want to be able to have committed relationships with members of the same sex, but this crossed the line.”
The airman said it was ironic that the Air Force is cracking down on Christians being able to openly share their faith but they would allow individuals to dress in drag.
“We can’t even have Bibles on our desks,” he said. “This base is not a platform for political agendas. It is a military installation. The display was totally inappropriate and offensive.”
In addition to the drag queens, there were performances by an Irish dance troupe, a Polynesia entertainment group, Japanese drummers, Native American dancers, Hispanic folk music, and cloggers.