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Anger in Wyoming after Taxpayer Money Funds Charity Drag Queen Bingo

drag queen bingo laramie funded wyoming taxpayers
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Since the late 1990s, people have been enjoying drag queen bingo events around the world. The trend started in the USA and didn’t take long to spread to the United Kingdom. Even Samuel L. Jackson was spotted at one in Glasgow Bongo’s Bingo.

Today, it is more popular than ever on both sides of the pond, with drag bingo raves, charity events, and more taking place on a regular basis.

However, it is clearly not for everyone; officials in Wyoming recently faced backlash after approving a $3,000 grant for a taxpayer fund drag queen event hosted by Wyoming AIDS Assistance.

The money went towards Drag Queen Bingo in Laramie, which was described as an R-rated fundraising event that both served alcohol and featured “sexually explicit” content. According to the organisers, who are a non-profit, the funds raised will help support those afflicted with HIV and AIDS. On the event website, a warning reads:

“This is not your grandmother’s church parlor bingo. It’s rated ‘R’ for really inappropriate for kids, and really going to raise some money for the Client Assistance Fund and HIV/AIDS awareness in Wyoming!”

Bill Drafted to Prevent Funding

Just two days after the sold-out event, a motion to draft a bill to prevent the state from funding the event was approved by the Joint Health, Labor and Social Services Committee.

Speaking after the vote, Rep. Jeanetta Ward said:

“My constituents and the public are very upset that what appears to have happened is that taxpayer dollars went to pay for a drag show. Taxpayer funds going to sexually explicit material of any kind is inappropriate.”

However, the director of the Department of Health, Stefan Johansson, said that the funds were not used to pay for the drag show. Rather, he said it was for the “specific activities that the mission of Wyoming AIDS Assistance and our communicable disease unit share to help folks with HIV, AIDS and STDs.”

According to Wyoming AIDS Assistance, the two grants it received, each of $1499, were used to pay for renting a ballroom, advertising, and rapid HIV testing that took place at the event. However, legislators are calling for the money to be revoked. It is allocated through a reimbursement and as such, it has not yet been paid to the group.

State Rep. Sarah Penn argues that if something happens at an event that comes to their attention after the fact, “we need to at least be able to say we need that money back”. She went on to call for guidelines outlining how grant money can be used.

Johansson has not yet said if the funding will be revoked, but it is understood that he has agreed to review the department’s policies regarding grant money.

A ‘Discombobulated’ Event

Penn, who was behind the motion, said that she believes the event was “discombobulated” due to alcohol being served. According to her logic, drinking alcohol can result in unprotected sex, thereby potentially spreading HIV. She said:

“We have an event that says this is focused on prevention and yet we know that the event is also promoting these types of behaviors. We’re using taxpayer dollars, and I don’t think the taxpayers are agnostic on this.”

Rep. Tamara Trujillo joined in by asking, “Does it make sense to have an educational meeting and notification event with alcohol on the one thing that’s causing the problem?”

Emphasis on Disease Prevention and Testing

The controversial Drag Queen Bingo event has been taking place annually since 2003. In its early years, it raised just $1,000, but an impressive $44,000 was raised for charity last year. It is not yet known how much was raised this year, but according to the event’s website, tickets sold out in just 24 minutes.

Kim Deti, a health department public information officer, said that the event “includes an emphasis on disease prevention and testing in addition to its fundraising purpose.”

Regardless of what one thinks of drag queens, no one questioned bingo’s effectiveness at fundraising. However, Wyoming is home to relatively few bingo halls and the state currently has no plans to legalise online bingo.

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Mike Bennet
Author: Mike Bennett
Dedicated to keeping the spirit of bingo alive. I think bingo sites translate tradition into a modern context and I aim to provide our readers with the latest from the world of online bingo, including industry news, launches, and promotions.

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