Drag Queen Story Hour under attack

Across America, recent events instigated by bigots and amplified by political figures have led to drag performers, and particularly Drag Queen Story Hours, being targeted for harassment and abuse. Through intimidation and outright threats, groups of individuals have shown up to events to be verbally abusive and disruptive, and the perpetrators are often armed.

As these events continue to be under threat, some people have been standing up to the bigots in defense of the performers. And one of those people is Jonathan Haught.

Describing Johnny Haught is a bit of a challenge. A big and tall man that could perhaps be viewed as intimidating, sure. And definitely someone with a lot of observations about the world in a manner you don’t see very often in MMA. His social and political views are not the kind that have major visibility in combat sport spaces.

It’s hard to know what to expect when you’re going to interview an MMA fighter or coach. Usually there are certain lines of thought or categories of subjects in which the interview subject will have commonalities seen across the board.

But not Haught. His convictions are strong, and his principles are clear. So when a group of people decided to threaten, harass and protest a series of events featuring drag queens in his area, Haught stepped into action. It garnered a bit of media attention, and even some international recognition as well.

An amateur fighter and now coach, Jonathan Haught is a very different kind of guy.

He was kind enough to make some time talk to me regarding what led him to put his foot down and scare off the pests. He also tells us what he hopes for moving forward, and how he plans on doing his part to make that happen.

Drag Queen Story Hour is one of America’s latest Satanic Panics.

Interview with Johnny Haught

Victor Rodriguez: You have your own gym, you’ve been training both yourself and others for some time. Did you begin your path in martial arts through MMA, did it start in your childhood? Where did it all start?

Johnny Haught: I got out of college, I was a two sport athlete in college. Basically all my life was athletic pursuits. And when I got out of college I didn’t have any sports, I didn’t have any coaches to tell me not to do anything stupid. And I found that with idle time I was harmful to myself.

VR: Hoo, boy. Been there. 

JH: I found fighting because, you know, basically that was what was gonna keep me out of trouble

VR: And so how did that begin? You found a local gym, were you with a group of friends? How did that start?

JH: Well, a friend of mine had been bringing UFC DVDs to my house. Now, this was in the 2000s, and I was really not interested in watching it. And he kept trying to force it on me, force it on me, force it on me, and I kinda… I one day looked at myself in the mirror and said “you used to be an athlete, you need to do something.” I kinda got into Jiu-Jitsu because I wasn’t really fond of the thought of someone punching me in the face on the regular.

So I figured if I got into grappling I could maybe keep that from happening. I got into Jiu-Jitsu first, and I kinda threw myself into some cage fights that I was not experienced enough for, I didn’t have the coaching for it. And I learned on the run and kinda learned what not to do. One of my – my first fight, I was the main event. If you’ve been around this sport, if your first fight is in the main event, they don’t figure you’re winning. 

VR: So I assume they set you up with someone more experienced as that was the role that they sort of wanted you to play, right?

JH: Right. And thankfully, I’m over-athletic. What I didn’t have in skill at the time I could kind of make up for in athleticism. I was terrified, I wasn’t confident in the situation. When I put my fighters into their fights, they are 100% sure they did everything they had to do to get there. At that time I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t have a proper coach over top of me telling me what I should do, what I shouldn’t do, (or) if I did it correctly.

So I just kinda threw myself into the mix and I fought the biggest, toughest dude they had. 

VR: Nice. Well, speaking of big, bad guys, we’re seeing big threats to marginalized communities on the regular these days. And the main reason you’ve made waves is because you’re part of the move to counteract the threats we’ve seen to things like Drag Queen Story Hour events, right?

“Most of the people that have a problem (with drag shows) have never been to a drag show, have never talked to a drag queen and do not understand what they’re talking about.” 

Johnny Haught

JH: There’s multiple things under attack, there’s the Drag Queen Story Hour that they do at the libraries where the drag queens dress up in ostentatious fashion and read a book, which again, harms nothing. Then you have the drag shows themselves. And the particular thing that they’re finding, they’re having a problem with, (is) the all-age drag shows because they assume that when the kids are there that it’s going to be the same show as if it were a bar and it was all adults.

Which is not the case if you’ve ever been to a drag show. You understand that it’s tailored to whatever the audience has in it. It comes from a lot of ignorance. Most of the people that have a problem (with drag shows) have never been to a drag show, have never talked to a drag queen and do not understand what they’re talking about. 

VR: Well, I’ve always found it curious that these people will say “Well, that’s not something children should see”, but what I’m not understanding is that they’re putting on more clothes instead of disrobing? 

JH: That’s right, that’s right.

VR: Have you ever had any interactions where you’ve had to speak to some of the folks issuing those threats or being hostile? Have you tried to suss out what their problem is and hear it straight from their mouths?

JH: Straight from their mouths would never happen. These people exist behind faceless profiles, and they exist behind veiled comments and phone calls where they threaten people, individually at establishments. This isn’t coming from a bold actor. This is from cowards that hide behind keyboards.

To read the rest of this exclusive interview with Johnny Haught, the MMA coach who protects Drag Queen Story Hour head to Substack…

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About the author
Victor Rodriguez
Victor Rodriguez

Victor Rodriguez has been a writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow since 2015. He started his way as a lowly commenter and moderator to become the miscreant he is now. He often does weekly bits on fringe martial arts items across the globe, oddball street combat pieces, previews, analysis, and some behind-the-scenes support. He has trained in wrestling, Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the occasional Muay Thai and Judo lesson here and there. Victor has also been involved with acting and audio editing projects. He lives in Pennsylvania where he plays way too many video games and is an S-rank dad.

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