Genius protest group uses ABBA, Lady Gaga and ‘fabulousness’ to drown out anti-LGBTQ+ hate

Cabaret Against The Hate Speech join pro-trans allies outside Scottish Parliament

A protest group, an emblem of queer resistance, is gaining ground in Scotland.

Their biggest weapons? Lady Gaga, ABBA and the soundtrack from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Cabaret Against The Hate Speech, a collective formed a little less than a month ago, is an ally and LGBTQ+ group that uses live music and dance to counter protest against hate speech.

The group debuted outside the Scottish parliament last month against a “gender-critical” demonstration organised by the Scottish Family Party. This Sunday (5 February), they plan to take their karaoke machine to Glasgow to protest against anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen – known as Posie Parker – and her “Let Women Speak” tour.

Word-of-mouth brought the counter-protest to life

The cabaret’s first show in front of the Scottish parliament on 12 January was originally going to be a one-person protest.

But, a spokesperson for the group – remaining anonymous for safety concerns – told PinkNews that after sharing the idea, it quickly became more.

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“I shared it on Facebook in some groups and some people joined… I took advice from them and it became a little collective. Then one person shared it on Twitter, then it went to Reddit and spread a bit further. In all honesty, the first one was a really big community effort.”

Shortly after informal social media efforts rallied dozens of people in January, the cabaret created Twitter and Instagram accounts, each now with about 600 followers.

The spokesperson said the group is a response to hate, “fuelled by queer joy, the love of music, celebrating our community and coming together as a positive presence in the space”.

They added: “The goal for our cabaret is always to sing together, celebrate our community and challenge hate.”

The power – and safety – in a collective

The cabaret operates as an anonymous collective using they/them pronouns. The power in this, the spokesperson told PinkNews, is that it shields them from being personally attacked by anti-trans people and groups.

“It’s a safety-in-numbers kind of thing,” they said. “It protects all of us if we’re a collective and a community-led group, and it’s a force that can’t be targeted individually.”

The spokesperson said that at the first protest, organisers were able to take a step back, talking to press or police, as other members of the community took over the leadership.

“Organisers could just hand over the mic,” they said. “It was an energising and encouraging moment. It shows what love actually means and can do – love for your friends, love for your community… love for [people] you don’t even know.”

cabaret protest
Cabaret Against The Hate Speech at their counter protest in front of the Scottish parliament on 12 January. (Getty)

But just as much as the collective structure lends itself to safety, it also lends itself to power – and noise.

One person who attended the first protest, Scott, 42, said the counter protests are about being as loud and positive as possible to “drown out hate speech”.

He added: “We won’t respond in kind [to hate speech], but we will respond with music, noise and fabulousness because ‘life is a cabaret’!”

The spokesman said collective music and dance as a form of protest serves several functions. It preserves queer people’s energy for protest that might otherwise be draining, it contradicts the transphobic rhetoric of queer people as dangerous or threatening, and, importantly, it makes anti-trans protestors just look “so silly”.

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Opposing groups, including Cabaret Against The Hate Speech, demonstrate outside the Scottish parliament. (Getty)

“They like to paint our community as deviants and wrong-doers, but they can’t really do that as we’re singing ABBA,” the spokesperson said. “Especially not if the haters are dancing along to it as well.

“It shows to them that we’re human, we enjoy the music they do, we dance, we sing and we laugh. It’s a way of protesting that doesn’t leave me feeling agitated, upset or drained.”

Cabaret Against The Hate Speech heads to Glasgow with hopes for a big turnout

The cabaret has been vocal on social media about their upcoming counter protest against Posie Parker’s upcoming event.

“Our hope is that the whole of Glasgow would come together and stand up against Posie Parker and her followers,” the spokesperson said.

But Sunday’s event prompts fear along with hope. The cabaret spokesperson said supporters online have already been targeted and threatened by Parker’s supporters. This time, the group has arranged for mental-health support and a well-being space where counter protestors can find a seat, a hot drink and chat with a professional should they become overwhelmed.

However, the cabaret are confident they will not be the minority. Especially as they are being joined by a group of people from the furry community.

As for Scott, he hopes to hear Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” – a tune he says really gets under anti-trans people’s skin.

“Hopefully we’ll sing that as much as we can,” he said.

The spokesperson said that their message to anti-trans protestors is simple: Queer and trans people will continue to exist.

“Take our rights away, and we’re still going to be here,” they said. “We’ve been there in the background creating your music, making your fashion… you don’t know that you celebrate us, but you do.”

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