Republican-led states are aiming to ban drag performances

Bills have been proposed in many Republican-led states to prohibit drag show performances in the presence of children. These states claim that drag performances expose children to sexual themes and imagery that are inappropriate.
In recent years, drag culture has become more mainstream in society. Drag is a performance of art that celebrates gender fluidity, self-expression and self-acceptance. Drag performers dress in exaggerated clothing and make-up styles representing gender identities, usually of the opposite sex. The actual show involves performers singing or lip-syncing to songs. There may also be comedy, skits and audience interaction.
There are 11 states throughout the United States working on legislation to ban drag performances: Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Arizona, Texas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia and South Carolina.
Nebraska’s proposed bill would prohibit anyone under the age of 19 from attending a drag show, and those who do not comply would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
South Dakota’s proposed bill would prohibit any state-operated facility from hosting any event “where a performer exhibits a gender identity that is different from the performer’s biological sex through the use of clothing, makeup, or other physical markers, for the predominant purpose of appealing to a prurient interest.”
In West Virginia, parents or guardians who bring minors to drag shows could be “required to complete parenting classes, substance abuse counseling, anger management counseling or other appropriate services.”
The eight other states with proposed bills are limiting “adult cabaret performances” on public property to shield from children. Also, restaurants or bars may have to register as “sexually orientated businesses.”
Drag Story Hour is a nonprofit organization that allows drag performers to read to children. On the proposed bills, their executive director Jonathan Hamilt said, “if drag wasn’t rooted in gay culture and rooted in queer community, I don’t think it’d be up for debate.”
Arkansas Senator and supporter of the bill Gary Stubblefield said, “when you take one of these little kids and put them in front of drag queens that are men dressed like women, do you think that helps them or confuses them in regard to their own gender?”
Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Tenn.) said, “this bill is not anti-drag. It is pro-child.” Johnson’s stance is that he needs to protect children from being shown sexually explicit drag show performances and that the bill is similar to laws that restrict children from going to strip clubs.
Shangela, a famous drag queen who gained popularity from being on the show RuPaul’s Drag Race, said “you can’t characterize the world of the drag by one particular type of show, the same way that you can’t characterize the way a television film by one particular program.”
Drag is a beloved activity and source of entertainment for the queer community and is in danger of being stripped away. “The world of drag is no different than any other aspect of entertainment in our world,” said Shangela. If these new restrictions are imposed on places that host drag show performances, the country will be seeing less and less shows.
In New Haven, there are many restaurants and bars that hold drag show performances, including The Diva Royale Drag Queen show which is held at 168 York Street Café. Drag in New Haven started in a common theater but has evolved to be an award-winning form of entertainment. Drag queens can be dated back to plays in Shakespeare time and has gained more popularity throughout the years.
11 states in the U.S. may be putting restrictions on drag shows which John Hamilt said “is just the 2023 trending version of what homophobia looks like.”