Rory Brouillard | Staff Writer
March 16, 2023
Tennessee lawmakers have taken a step that, in their eyes, helps protect children as they grow and develop — the restriction of drag shows in public and around the presence of children.
Drag shows and whether it is healthy for children to be exposed to “sexual content” have been a topic of debate in the news recently.
Many of the Republicans in the House and the Senate believe it is inappropriate for children to be around drag. Almost three dozen Republican members of congress claim that these children are being groomed and sexualized.
In reality, these performances for children are volunteer story times to show children how to express themselves.
CNN states that the bill bans “adult cabaret performances” on public property so as to shield them from the view of children, threatening violators with a misdemeanor and repeat offenders with a felony.
Under the bill, adult cabaret includes topless shows, go-go dancers, exotic dances, strippers and men/women impersonators.
The LGBTQ+ community has felt especially targeted from this bill, as it includes drag shows under adult cabaret. Drag queens and kings are not strippers and don’t provide sexually explicit content, except for possible private shows that the content is stated.
CNN also quotes Republican state Sen. Jack Johnson saying, “For clarification, this bill is not targeting any group of people. It does not ban drag shows in public. It simply puts age restrictions in place to ensure that children are not present at sexually explicit performances.”
By adding men and women impersonators and all the other legislation that is being pushed in the Tenessee legislative against the LGBTQ+ community, it is clearly targeting drag queens.
Although drag has been present since the age of Shakespeare — when male actors would dress as women — it remains a very controversial topic in this country.
One of the first people who described themselves as a drag queen in the United States was a former slave, William Dorsey Swann. He was arrested several times and eventually was sentenced to 300 years in prison. Since then, there has been a push to allow people to express themselves without hate and violence.
The LGBTQ+ community has been met with violence for years, from Stonewall in 1969 to a shooting at Club Marcella, a drag night club in Buffalo, N.Y., just last month. The violence has never seemed to stop, and it only becomes worse when the leaders of our country push for restrictions against this community.
The new Tennessee law, which is only the first of an expected many, also strips away freedom of expression. Drag is doing no harm to those in society, except those against the LGBTQ+ community. Drag queens and kings are not topless or stripping in public or in front of children; they are reading books and expressing who they are.
Drag queens are not sexualizing children. Drag queens are being restricted, but toddler beauty pageants are being praised and put on television. They are allowed to dress as adults and be sexualized based on how they look.
Drag queens and kings, showing an art form, are the problems Congress sees as vital. Not gun laws and safety in schools but drag.
The Tennessee law prohibits any drag shows being within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks or places of worship. Drag queens and kings are being treated as sex offenders.
They have not caused any harm or done anything immoral, except in the eyes of anti-LGBTQ+. The only thing that is harmful is the toxic masculinity and misogyny that are controlling the laws and how people express themselves.
One of the most popular drag queens, RuPaul, spoke out on social media saying “it is a mask used to hide the discrimination toward the LGBTQ+ community and the desire to erase drag. Public indecency is already illegal in Tennessee, this is yet another awful attempt at trying to take away our rights.”
If public indecency is already outlawed, which is what lawmakers are claiming to be protecting children from, then why make another law that specifically calls out impersonators.
Drag is a way for the LGBTQ+ community and others to take part in expression and art. There is no danger and no reason to hide children from it. Children should not be hidden away from this expression and art. Showing children drag queens is not grooming. They are not forcing children to dress up, even though children already participate in dress up and pretend. So dress up isn’t the problem, but being gay and the fear that children will be “forced” to be gay by watching drag is.
The fight for equal expression has been a fight for ages and only more laws will come restricting even more. There needs to be a stop to the misogyny, racism, and homophobia running this country, in order to finally live in a just society.