Alright, y’all. I’ve been wanting to say something about all the recent legislation flowing through states like Tennessee and Montana regarding drag.
As recent as late April, Montana approved the final draft of a bill banning public drag shows across the state. The language defines drag queens and kings as “a male or female performer who adopts a flamboyant or parodic persona with glamorous or exaggerated costumes and make-up.” The legislation will soon go to Republican governor Greg Gianforte, who will most likely approve the legislation.
The issue here is that this language is so ambiguous that it could literally ban people like Lady Gaga, Madonna, or even Cher, who are all flamboyant performers, from putting on concerts in the state of Montana. Let’s forget the moral side of this for a second and simply consider the economic ramifications of this legislation. If this were to become law, this would prevent big-name performers from even coming to the state, those who have built their brand on being outlandish, glamorous, and exaggerated. People who would attend these performers’ shows — whether that be concerts and/or theatrical performances — would also be providing additional income for area businesses. But because of this law, this may not happen, and Montana will most likely miss out on an entire stream of entertainment revenue that could enrich them in the long run. How does that make sense?
Now for the moral side of it all — not only does this affect drag performers directly, but it could also affect transgender individuals (who in some cases are also drag performers) who could be accused of using “flamboyant” makeup and dress to don an appearance that the state has designated as “dangerous”. This means that simply by being themselves, these transgender people could be in danger just by walking outside their doors every day.
Now for Tennessee. Back in March, Tennessee passed a bill that banned drag performances in public, designating said shows as “adult cabaret performances” within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, or places of worship (give me a break). If anyone were to break the anti-drag law, they could be fined up to $2,500 and could even face a felony charge and jail time of up to six years. Thankfully, a federal judge blocked this law from going into effect because it basically seeks to limit free speech in a way that is outside the framework that is the U.S. Constitution (surprising, right?)
As for this law, let’s just call it for what it is: a blatant attempt to target the LGBTQ+ community in an area where we’ve been gaining public approval for years now. It’s a distraction, invented to stir up a conservative base ahead of the 2024 elections. Is this the first time gender expression has been targeted? Of course not. Let’s not forget that in 1960’s New York City, one could be arrested for failing to wear at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing. After the Stonewall Riots, this law was challenged, just as these laws are being challenged now.
As someone who has personally benefitted from drag, I’m here to say that there is nothing harmful about this beautiful art. Is there bad drag? Yes. But is it dangerous? No. Drag’s point is to empower individuals to express themselves, to push the envelope on gender expression so as to give life to new ways of thinking. Is that scary to some people? Absolutely. But does that justify limiting drag, some people’s literal means of living, from existing? No. So let’s leave the drag queens alone. It’s hard enough tucking and dancing in heels seven days a week. Give them a break!