A troupe called “Drag Syndrome” in the United Kingdom has sparked global outrage for featuring people with Down syndrome performing in drag. The production is led by the dance choreography group, Culture Device, and is described as a “drag collective featuring highly addictive queens & kings with Down Syndrome.” The group has been accused of exploiting individuals with Down syndrome and sexualizing their performances.
The creative director of Drag Syndrome, Daniel Vais, claims that the purpose of the troupe is to allow individuals with Down syndrome to express themselves. However, conservatives argue that the performers, some of whom dance under sexual names, are being exploited. The depiction of the performers and their descriptions on the troupe’s website have raised concerns. For example, one performer is described as a “man eater by day and a filmmaker by night,” while another is described as “fierce, intelligent, and powerful” with moves that can make audiences go wild.
While Drag Syndrome denies any exploitation, the sexualized nature of the performances and the descriptions of the performers are inappropriate. Criticism towards Drag Syndrome intensified when detransitioner Oli London highlighted several performers on social media, pointing out the use of fetish gear and whips. However, a spokesperson for Drag Syndrome denied the presence of such elements in their performances, calling the photo that London shared “massively unrepresentative and out of context.”
The controversy surrounding Drag Syndrome raises questions about the boundaries of artistic expression and the treatment of vulnerable individuals. People with Down syndrome should be treated with dignity and respect, and not be subjected to potentially exploitative situations.