Drag Is NOT Dangerous

Drag Is NOT Dangerous

By: Nicole Dameron

July 3rd, 2023

Since 2022, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has recorded 161 incidents of anti-LGBTQ protests and threats, many notably taking place at drag events and in LGBTQ-specific spaces. This uptick in violence began to climb in late 2022, and has since been exacerbated to extremes by the far-right political rhetoric that labels drag performers as “pedophiles” and “groomers”. 

This kind of hate speech not only demonizes a community and art form that brings people joy and preaches acceptance, but has given extremists the green light to commit violent acts against performers and other members of the LGBTQ community.

As Pride Month comes to a close, it is essential that we continue to protect and lift up the drag community, and actively push back against rhetoric that aims to eradicate an entire culture and community of people. 

Since the beginning of 2023, over 32 bills have been filed in 17 states proposing to ban drag and drag performances, with Tennessee being the first to pass the bill into law in early March. The law was ultimately struck down by a federal judge in early June due to it being a blatant violation of first amendment rights and completely unconstitutional. 

However, other states like Montana have passed bills that restrict drag performers from performing in front of children — more specifically drag queen story hours, which are popular in spaces like public libraries. 

In Florida, a bill that would ban individuals under the age of 18 from attending drag events was proposed and backed by Governor Ron DeSantis in May. The “Protection of Children Act” would authorize “[the Department of Business and Professional Regulation] to fine, suspend, or revoke the license of any public lodging, establishment, or public food service establishment if the establishment admits a child to an adult live performance.” 

The bill would allow the state to fine and even revoke a business’s liquor license if they are found to not be cooperative with the law — a measure that would put many out of business. 

The bill was ultimately blocked by Federal Judge Gregory A. Presnell, when he issued a preliminary injunction this past June. The judge sided with a popular Orlando establishment, Hamburger Mary’s, and their lawsuit against Governor DeSantis. They claimed that the implementation of the anti-drag law lost their restaurant business, with the restaurant being a well-loved host of drag performances.  

This decision comes after Ron Desantis’s months long smear campaign against drag and LGBTQ people in an effort to boost right-wing support for his 2024 presidential bid. On the topic of efforts to ban drag performances, the governor said this: 

“There’s these adult performances, these drag shows, sexually explicit,” he said. “What they’re doing is adult entertainment. People can do what they want with some of that, but to have minors there, I mean, you’ll have situations where you’ll have like an 8-year-old girl there, where you have these like really explicit shows, and that is just inappropriate.”

This is an extreme overgeneralization, and aims to diminish the performance art of drag to one description as “adult entertainment.” Most drag shows can contain dance numbers, lip-synching, comedy and costume, all of which can and have been executed without a degree of hyper-sexuality. 

Other events like Drag Queen Story Hours don’t even contain these elements, rather using the time and space to read books to children with positive themes like self-love and acceptance: all things that are NOT inherently sexual. 

In addition, suggesting that 8 year olds frequently attend adult-themed drag shows suggests that they are doing so without parental knowledge or consent — which is something that is extremely uncommon if not unheard of. Parents make decisions regarding the content their children consume when it comes to books, television and music, so why would that not be the case with attending drag shows? 

Not only have drag performers been subjected to endless oppression of their art and livelihood, they have also been unfoundedly labeled as “groomers” and “pedophiles” — language that has become increasingly dangerous as the right launches their political witch hunt to eradicate drag performers and trans people. There has never been a documented case of Drag Queens grooming or preying on children, although some queens have been subject to destructive false claims.

With all of that being said, there are sadly many places where you will find extensive documentation of child molestation and grooming.

You’ll find it in churches. At the hands of politicians. And often, at home. 

In May of this year, a report was released by the Illinois attorney general that found 451 Catholic clergy sexually abused nearly 2,000 children in the state over the course of 70 years — and this was in the state of Illinois alone

Child sexual abuse is rampant in the church, and has been allowed to fester due to intentional negligence, oversight and inaction. Earlier in 2023, Maryland’s top prosecutor accused the Catholic church in Baltimore of covering up years of sexual abuse, citing over 600 children that were subject to violence at the hands of multiple abusers. 

It would seem that there is no separation of church and state as it pertains to child abuse. There are handfuls of elected officials and Republican figures that have been subjected to investigation and found guilty of similar crimes. 

In 2018, ex-judge and Republican activist Tim Nolan was charged with human trafficking of vulnerable young women, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Rep. Jim Jordan from Ohio was accused of covering up and participating in sexual misconduct while he was employed as a wrestling coach at The Ohio State University. In 2021, congressman Matt Gaetz was under investigation and accused of engaging in sexual activity with a minor as well as  the trafficking of other young women across state lines. 

Not only is the “pedophile” discourse around drag untrue and without basis, it distracts from holding real perpetrators accountable and has put performers in danger of violent protest and assault

As anti-drag protesters amp up their public demonstrations, it’s important that we take a step back and reassess what the real danger to children is. Many of these protests draw crowds toting guns and other weapons, and often result in physical violence, creating an environment extremely unsafe for any individual, much less a child.

It’s time that we start protecting children from adults that actually pose a threat to them, and stop demonizing a community built on love, joy and acceptance all in the name of politics. 

Drag performers are not looking to groom your children, nor indoctrinate them to “be gay”. Drag is about love and self-expression, and only encourages children to be the most authentic version of themselves, which at the end of the day, can help save the lives of queer youth. 

Nicole Damron is a senior majoring in Arts and Humanities and Professional and Public Writing with a minor in Spanish. She aspires to work as a culture and entertainment writer, potentially freelance. In her leisure time Nicole enjoys playing guitar and trumpet, true crime, listening to music, and sleeping in concerningly late.