The State Department is pushing back against criticism of a $20,600 grant for a cultural center in Ecuador to host "drag theater performances," arguing the money would provide LGBTQ people in the South American country an outlet "to express themselves freely and safely."
According to reports, the State Department awarded the grant Sept. 23 to the Centro Ecuatoriano Norteamericano (CEN), a non-profit organization supported by the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador.
The project at CEN launched a week later and runs until Aug. 31, 2023.
The LGBTQ-friendly program — which aims to "promote diversity and inclusion" in that region — includes three workshops, "12 drag theater performances," and a "2-minute documentary," according to the State Department's grant listed on the USASpending.gov website.
"In September 2022, the U.S. Department of State awarded a grant to the Centro Cultural Ecuatoriano Norteamericano Abraham Lincoln, a U.S.-Ecuadorian cultural center in Cuenca, Ecuador, for a program that uses the arts to raise awareness about diversity and inclusion," the spokesperson said. "The program's goal is to promote tolerance, and the arts provide new opportunities for LGBTQI+ Ecuadorians to express themselves freely and safely.
"Recent data suggest an alarming and deadly rise in violence against LGBTQI+ persons in Ecuador. The program will advance key U.S. values of diversity and the inclusion of LGBTQI+ communities as well as promote the acceptance of communities that are disproportionately affected by violence."
The State Department has reportedly awarded hundreds of grants — drawn from U.S. taxpayer dollars — to the CEN over the years.
For example, in 2016, the State Department awarded a $50,000 grant to the CEN to promote the College Horizons program, which teaches English to young people of color.
And the year before, it awarded $234,000 to the CEN for the construction of a new auditorium.
This most recent grant, however, appears to be the first of its kind, in terms of funding drag performances.
Also, as Newsmax chronicled two weeks ago, the State Department indicated it might provide gender-transition care for diplomats and their children stationed overseas.
In its statement then, the State Department says it would "assess resources for gender dysphoria and gender-transition care at posts for employees and their dependents" in an effort to "increase support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI+) employees and family members," according to the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Strategic Plan.
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