OPINION: U.S. anti-drag show legislation based on ignorance, moral panic

Apr 22, 2023 | OP-ED, Opinion

Going to see your favourite drag queen shouldn’t result in them potentially getting arrested no matter what age you are.

The new wave of moral panic about the LGBTQ+ community from the right wing in the U.S., and to some extent in Canada, has made drag shows and the trans community the centre of their rage and it needs to be stopped.

The moral panic comes from the notion that LGBTQ+ people are supposedly “grooming” children for sexual exploitation with drag shows is the problem, which is further from the truth.

My sister, 13, and I have been watching RuPaul’s Drag Race since the start of the pandemic and we haven’t missed an episode since.

I’ve fallen in love with the show and the queens, so when I had the opportunity to go to a show in Toronto to see my favourite queens, I couldn’t pass it up.

At the end of last month, I got to experience drag live for the first time. I got to meet and watch the top five of my favourite season, Season 14 in Toronto, and it was better than I could have ever imagined.

Each queen brought something different to the stage. The art, music, outfits, makeup, self-expression and just celebrating the queer community made for an amazing night of entertainment shared with hundreds of people of all ages, including many kids, in the audience.

That’s what the drag community is about.

Drag is a form of self-expression and entertainment, and just like dance and music, it’s supposed to be shared with the world. But with everything, it may not be to everyone’s taste, but not all drag is harmful, and not all drag is harmful to minors.

But governors in the United States still can’t seem to get it through their minds and it has led to many anti-LGBTQ+ bills. They are using “child protection” laws as a way of masking their fear and ignorance of the queer community

Drag is so diverse and unique to the person. everybody who does drag does it differently and they do it for different reasons.

It’s impossible to legislate all drag.

To say all drag is bad for kids is like me saying all movies are bad for kids or all music is bad for kids.

The laws resemble the new one signed by Tennesse Gov. Bill Lee that prevents “adult cabaret performance[s]” and “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest” from occurring on public property or in the presence of children

Those found violating the anti-drag law face misdemeanor charges in the first instance, punishable by a fine up to $2,500 and/or up to a year in jail. Those found for subsequent violations face a felony charge, punishable by up to six years in jail.

There are 469 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are moving their way through state legislatures across the U.S., the American Civil Liberties Union said, and at least nine Republican state legislatures were pushing similar anti-drag bills and are already interfering with events.

Recently, a southeast Florida city cancelled a gay pride parade and restricted other pride events to people 21 years and older in anticipation of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signing a similar bill.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee has correctly reminded lawmakers that “dance, fashion, and music – essential components of a drag performance – are all protected by the First Amendment,” calling the bill “a malicious attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life.”

I agree. It’s an attack on individual freedoms of speech which drag is. It is an attack on collective freedoms of assembly with the ban on Pride parades. It is an attack on parental rights. Some parents might choose to expose their children to a gender non-conformity world.

These potential American bills are in place all these things are just a way to silence us as a community. But what i have learned from drag performers and the LGBTQ+ community is that we won’t go down without a fight and won’t go down quietly.