There was a time when the only places queer people could congregate and drag queens could perform their female impersonations and lip-syncing were seedy bars and nightclubs on the margins of mainstream society.
Today, drag queens are on TV, thanks to shows such as “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” social media and pop culture. Drag Sunday brunches and drag bingo are popular fixtures in South Florida.
Turns out that hurts the sensibilities of some Republicans.
In the same week that the Jan. 6 committee unveiled its findings on the attack against American democracy, Florida Gov. DeSantis, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and others were more preoccupied with children attending a drag show in Dallas, Texas. Videos posted online showed the children strutting down a catwalk with the performers and tipping them, as is customary at drag shows. “Drag the Kids to Pride Drag Show” was advertised as a family-friendly spin-off of a local bar’s drag brunch commemorating Pride Month.
And now, the party of parental rights wants state entities to investigate parents who take their children to drag shows.
“I’ve asked my folks to look — I mean, we have child-protective statutes on the books. We have laws against child endangerment,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Lee County. “And that is totally inappropriate. That is not something that children should be exposed to.”
Florida Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Lake County, said he wants to ban drag shows aimed at children and charge the parents, the Sun Sentinel reported. Sabatini is best known for filing extreme legislation that goes nowhere, but he might have found kindred spirits in his party. More than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures across the nation this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Depicting LGBTQ people as dangerous to kids and framing gay men as child molesters is an old, tired trope. During the debate over Florida’s parental rights bill known as “Don’t say gay,” DeSantis’ spokeswoman tweeted that “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming bill, you are probably a groomer,” a term used to describe sexual predators.
Children are already banned from most drag shows at adult nightclubs, where performances can get raunchy and inappropriate for children. But Republicans’ issue appears to be not with exposing children to booty dancing — which they can easily watch in pop artists’ music videos — but with the “perverted adults,” to quote a Texas GOP lawmaker, dressed as the opposite gender.
There’s no political uproar about parents taking their child to sports bars to watch fighters in a cagelike UFC rink draw blood from each other. What about video games like “Call of Duty,” in which any kid with a joystick can become a shooter in a virtual war zone? Not to mention the internet — where drag queens are the least of the GOP’s worries.
Will the state of Florida begin monitoring what parents allow their children to see on the web? Or isn’t that a parental responsibility?
Republicans used the “parents know best” line to pass the “Don’t say gay” bill, which banned instructions in K-3 public school classrooms about sexual orientation and gender identity. They said parents, not teachers, should explain to their children what LGBTQ means.
Wouldn’t bringing their child to a drag show qualify as parents exercising that autonomy? Republicans, your hypocrisy is showing.