In the quaint city of Austin, Minnesota, the annual Mower County Fair has been graced by the vivacious presence of Dylan Kaercher, a native of Austin, who, for the past three years, has brought forth the lively character of Roxi Manacoochi to call bingo at the American Legion. However, this year marked a surprising departure from tradition, as Kaercher was conspicuously absent, citing a ripple effect of nationwide attacks on the LGBTQ+ community and the spread of misinformation surrounding drag performers.
Kaercher’s notable absence has not gone unnoticed, drawing attention to the growing conservative backlash against the LGBTQ+ community in the region. Local conservative group STAND4RIGHT had previously protested a drag story time event at the Austin Public Library, where Kaercher had been reading to children in character as Roxi Manacoochi since 2019. Even a local pastor, Ed Brady, took it upon himself to voice his opposition to the event with a letter to the library board.
Reflecting on these recent developments, Kaercher lamented, “It’s only been in the past year where I feel like every time Roxi goes to do something, I’m met with some sort of vocal backlash.” Despite being a full-time performer since 2020, he now faces challenges he never anticipated.
While the commander of Austin’s American Legion post remained silent on the matter, Kevin Finley, the board president of the Mower County Fair, emphasized that fair officials refrain from interfering in groups’ participation over social or political issues. This stance leaves many questioning the true reasons behind Kaercher’s exclusion this year.
However, amid adversity, Kaercher has found solace in the support of volunteers who have reached out, expressing their desire for him to participate in next year’s fair. Furthermore, other venues have extended invitations for him to continue hosting events in drag. The controversy has highlighted the importance of fostering a welcoming and inclusive community, where individuals can feel safe and proud of their identities.
Despite the setbacks, Kaercher remains resilient, with plans to establish a storefront theater and event space in downtown Austin. Yet, the prevailing anti-drag sentiment in the city has compelled him to take precautionary measures such as installing security cameras and extra lighting at his new establishment. It’s a sobering reminder of the challenges faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community, even in their pursuit of business ownership.
In a world that continually grapples with issues of inclusivity and acceptance, Kaercher’s journey serves as a testament to the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community in the face of adversity, reminding us that progress is an ongoing struggle.