American music megastar Beyoncé found herself in hot water with fans after she performed at a concert in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country known for severe restrictions on LGBTQ rights.
Beyoncé headlined the private $24 million concert in Dubai at the luxury hotel Atlantis The Royal, marking her first live performance in five years.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in the UAE have faced prosecution under public decency laws for acts such as cross-dressing and kissing in public. Additionally, homosexuality is illegal in the country, and under Sharia law, same-sex sexual activity is punishable by death.
While many fans and activists were delighted to see the music icon step back onto the stage, others expressed disappointment at the singer’s venue of choice.
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Speaking with The Telegraph on Sunday, LGB Alliance co-founder Bev Jackson said the British advocacy group was deeply “disappointed” by the concert.
“idk, if I already had $500 million, I don’t think an additional $35 million would be enough money for me to go perform the album I dedicated to my gay uncle in a country where being gay is still punishable by death,” Inside Hook Managing Editor Bonnie Stiernberg tweeted.
In conversation with BBC Newsbeat, freelance journalist Abigail Firth said the concert was a “misguided choice” by Beyoncé whose work is “indebted to LGBT culture.”
“She’s obviously a multimillionaire anyway, she didn’t really need to do this, she didn’t really need the money,” she added.
Gay bar owner Lawrence Batron said it was “truly disappointing” to hear of the performance and wondered if Beyoncé had considered the LGBTQ legislation in the UAE.
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“We need to hear from Beyoncé herself about how she feels about the situation that our community faces over there,” he said. “Because she has fans all over the world that adore her, some will be upset and some will think it’s an amazing thing.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race star Kitty Scott-Claus also tweeted about the controversy, writing “Hi I have a question.. can someone explain why everyone was canceling David Beckham the other month but now celebrating Beyoncé for performing in Dubai? One rule for one and one for another?”
Like Beyoncé, Beckham faced intense backlash for signing a massive deal with the government of Qatar to advertise the FIFA World Cup. Beckham had previously received praise within the LGBTQ community, appearing on several high-profile gay magazine covers.
The latest Beyoncé album, Renaissance, was widely celebrated by fans and critics for honoring Black queer culture. The album was dedicated to her children and husband, as well as her late gay Uncle Johnny and members of the LGBTQ community who helped to expand Black culture.
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“A big thank you to my Uncle Jonny. He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that served as inspiration for this album,” Beyoncé wrote ahead of the album’s release. “Thank you to all the pioneers who originated culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long.”
Beyoncé has championed LGBTQ rights throughout her extensive career. She has supported several queer artists, including singer-songwriter MNEK, Big Freedia and Messy Mya. She also openly supported R&B star Frank Ocean after he publicly came out as bisexual.
Additionally, Beyoncé has been an outspoken advocate for marriage equality, promoting the “Y’all Means All” campaign targeting North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill.” She also hired trans actress Laverne Cox as the face of Ivy Park, her athleisure clothing line.
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