Beyoncé Called Out For Abandoning Her 'Principles' For $24M Dubai Performance, But Some Call The Criticism 'Western Hypocrisy'

Is the backlash fair?

Photographs of Beyonce with screenshots of tweets debating the morals of her Dubai performance Tinseltown/; @beyonce, @ingekoni/Instagram; @itsmetheHBIC/Twitter

Beyoncé has been beloved by the LGBTQ community since the moment she began her career as part of Destiny's Child back in 1998.

25 years later, the 41-year-old diva is part of the queer-icon pantheon alongside artists like Madonna, Janet Jackson and Cher—especially for queer people of color. 

So her choice to perform a concert in Dubai—for a reported payday between $24 million and $35 million—has outraged many given the city's virulently anti-LGBTQ climate.


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LGBTQ activists calling out Beyoncé's Dubai performance are ignoring problems closer to home.

LGBTQ rights aren't exactly enjoying a golden age in Europe and the United States either, especially for transgender people.

And as several other queer icons have performed in Dubai without generating an uproar, some are wondering if the criticism of Beyoncé's show is fair.

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Beyoncé's $24 million performance in Dubai included many of her biggest hits and featured her daughter Blue Ivy, but nothing from her most recent LGBTQ-themed album "Renaissance."

Beyoncé's performance at the ultra-luxurious five-star Atlantis Royal Dubai resort was, like all her performances, nothing short of an extravaganza.



The ultra-exclusive show played to just 1,500 fans, including celebrities like Rebel Wilson, Kendall Jenner and Nia Long, and featured several of her biggest hits, like "Crazy in Love" and "Naughty Girl."


At one point, Beyoncé was even joined onstage by her 11-year-old daughter with husband Jay-Z, Blue Ivy Carter, to sing a duet of "Brown Skin Girl."

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Attendees were strictly forbidden from bringing phones inside the venue, but those rules stopped no one, and footage from the event quickly flooded the internet.


UAE's anti-LGBTQ laws seems to have censored Beyoncé's performance.

While tracks from Beyoncé's queer-themed "Renaissance" have gone viral again and again on apps like TikTok, they were noticeably absent from her Dubai extravaganza.

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Beyoncé's performance has angered many because the United Arab Emirates' observance of Sharia law makes same-sex LGBTQ conduct punishable by death.

While there is no evidence the death penalty has ever been applied to LGBTQ people in the UAE, the country's statutes against same-sex conduct and transgender expression are enforced with prison time, fines and deportation.

The country is notorious for human rights violations against far more than LGBTQ people too, with women and migrant workers facing abuses as well. 

This has led many to question Beyoncé's sincerity as an LGBTQ ally.

Given how heavily Beyoncé has borrowed from Black LGBTQ and drag culture, many have accused Beyoncé of simply using queer people to sell albums.


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Many feel the criticisms of Beyoncé are unjustified, especially since LGBTQ rights are under attack worldwide.

As a person on Twitter put it: "Since when is it the case that Beyoncé can only perform in countries where LGBT+ rights are recognized? Can she perform in Japan? In Korea?"


And the United States is hardly a paragon of virtue anymore—LGBTQ rights, especially trans rights, are under all-out assault in many parts of the US like Florida and Beyoncé's home state of Texas.

Countries like the United Kingdom are also in the midst of a wave of attacks on queer and trans people—as one tweeter was quick to point out when a British man went viral for criticizing Beyoncé.


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Fans also defended Beyoncé by saying that queer people in the UAE deserve to see queer icons perform too, and that Beyoncé's show might even help the LGBTQ rights climate in the UAE.


Given the ultra-exclusive audience and surely exorbitant ticket prices, that seems like a stretch—it's unlikely the rank-and-file LGBTQ people subject to the UAE's restrictive laws were in attendance.

But it's true that Beyoncé is far from the only queer icon to perform in Dubai—everyone from Madonna and Kylie Minogue to even Elton John have done shows in the city with little blowback.


If we're going to give Queen Bey all this smoke, we should probably be retroactively canceling Kylie, Madonna and Elton, too. Fair is fair.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.