Drag performances bring positivity to local communities

Various states drafting legislation to ban drag shows threaten LGBTQ communities

· Apr 5, 2023 Tweet

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

Drag brunches are one of the most vivacious sources of entertainment sweeping bars and restaurants across the country. Performers in drag brunches host themed shows full of lip-syncing, extravagant costumes, positivity and audience engagement, all accompanied by delicious food and bottomless mimosas.

Oak Rowan Foodie describes drag brunches as events “where you can let loose and have a mimosa with strangers who pull you to the dance floor to go crazy.”

Drag brunches often feature dance, comedy performances and artists dressed up in bedazzled outfits and colorful wigs lip-syncing to your favorite pop song. These brunches are meant as a fun way to let loose and have fun. But these harmless events are being threatened by some U.S. politicians who fear their effects on children. 

According to Time Magazine, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee recently signed into law a bill prohibiting “adult cabaret performances” in places where minors could be present. At least 14 other states, including Arizona, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas are introducing similar bills, inciting fear in the LGBTQ+ community and the institutions that host drag brunches and other drag performances.

Tennessee is the only state that has passed the law so far, but performers and affiliates of drag performances are concerned about the implications of these anti-drag bills. 

Though not all of these proposed bills are explicitly banning drag, they are making performances less accessible, especially to minors and generally labeling drag as dangerous, provocative and inappropriate.

The writer of Nebraska’s proposed bill to ban anyone under the age of 19 from attending drag shows, Sen. Dave Murman, said these bills are meant to “protect children.” 

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“Perverted adults are obsessed with sexualizing young children,” Texas State Rep. Bryan Slaton said in a statement. 

“These performers are, in my view, disgusting,” former Arizona State Sen. Vince Leach complained to NPR.

The personal views and biases of conservative politicians could criminalize and stigmatize an important art form, and these proposed bills would have serious consequences for drag performances.

According to the Arizona Mirror, Arizona’s proposed law would label institutions that include drag performances as “adult-oriented businesses,” which usually only applies to strip clubs. Additionally, under this law, artists that perform to minors under 15 years old would be forced to register as sex offenders and face up to 10 years in prison. While Wisconsin’s state government has not yet introduced an anti-drag bill, the amount of criminalizing bills from other states threatens drag everywhere. 

Of course, labeling drag as harmful is a false generalization — drag is a valuable art for the LGBTQ+ community and is appreciated by members and non-members of the community alike. It is meant for self-expression and entertainment, not for corrupting children. 

“Drag actually saved my life… I don’t even want to imagine a life where I can’t be the person that I worked so hard to finally figure out who I am,” drag queen Timothy Sherwood said to CNN. “To have that fully ripped away, that would be soul crushing.” 

Lots of drag performances, especially drag brunches, are not explicit or provocative and are sometimes even geared toward children. Some libraries host the national organization Drag Queen Story Hour, where drag queens read books to children while dressed in character. Madison’s Pinney Public Library and the Madison Children’s Museum have been known to occasionally host these storytelling events, and they can also be found at State Street’s Colectivo Coffee shop during Pride Month, along with other Colectivo locations. 

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Such events are also facing possible banishment through the new bills. These proposed bills insinuate drag itself is threatening to children when the reality is that many children who view or interact with drag queens are just excited to see someone dressed in sparkly outfits. 

The kinds of bills being written are not only a threat to the businesses hosting drag performances and the performers themselves but to the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. 

Drag is an important form of self-expression to many members of the community. For many, it allows for community building and a feeling of belonging. Many performers report finally feeling comfortable in their own skin and that they have found a familial connection through drag. 

Drag brunches have become a well-known type of weekend entertainment in recent years and are only increasing in popularity.

If interested in attending a local drag brunch, some restaurants in Madison that host these events are Vintage Brewing Company and The Rigby Pub. Drag Bingo was at the Red Rooster March 29 and donated a portion of its proceeds to local LGBTQ+ charities. Another local drag opportunity can be found at the Sylvee when the Emmy Award-winning reality competition show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, comes to Madison Aug. 3. 

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This article was published Apr 5, 2023 at 2:00 pm and last updated Apr 2, 2023 at 1:41 pm

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