Republican lawmakers in Florida and Texas have promised to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would ban children from drag shows, in response to conservative outrage over a viral video showing children attending a drag show in a Dallas gay bar.
The event, “Drag Your Kids to Pride,” was held at Mr. Misster Dallas, and was promoted as a “family-friendly Pride experience.” Conservative media went into a rage after video from the event was shared widely, showing children getting up on stage or handing money to drag performers.
Opponents of the event criticized scantily-clad drag queens for dancing provocatively, as well as the general atmosphere of the bar, which was playing expletive-filled music during the show and has a neon sign posted on a wall reading: “It’s Not Going to Lick Itself!”
Some protesters gathered outside the bar and surrounded performers and event attendees in confrontations that turned physical.
Critics argued that the event promotes “gender confusion” among young children — appearing to conflate drag queens with members of the transgender community — and is a form of “grooming” or “child abuse” that exposes children to sexually-related topics to which they should not be exposed.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — always eager to weigh in on culture-war issues — said he has asked his staff to look into the possibility of legislation that would require Florida’s child welfare agencies to investigate parents for “child endangerment” if they allow their children to attend drag shows, reports NBC News.
“It used to be kids would be off-limits. Used to be everybody agreed with that,” DeSantis said. “now it just seems like there’s a concerted effort to be exposing kids more and more to things that are not age appropriate.”
DeSantis is best known for his vocal support of the so-called “Parental Rights in Education” law — dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — which purports to “protect” children from being exposed to age-inappropriate material, including topics related to sexual orientation or gender identity in schools. DeSantis called the presence of children at the Dallas-based event “totally inappropriate.”
“That is not something children should be exposed to,” DeSantis said of video clips showing some of the drag performances at Mr. Misster Dallas. “And so, we probably, we may have the ability to deal with something like that if something like that happens.”
Florida State Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Eustis), who is running for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, promised to propose legislation to charge parents with a felony and strip them of their parental rights if they bring their children to drag shows in the state, tweeting: “When will the sexualization of children stop?”
In Texas, State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) promised to introduce a similar bill when the next state legislative session convenes in January.
“Drag shows are no place for a child,” he tweeted. “I would never take my children to a drag show and I know Speaker Dade Phelan and my Republican colleagues wouldn’t either. The events of this past weekend were horrifying and show a disturbing trend in which perverted adults are obsessed with sexualizing young children.”
After he was criticized on social media for focusing on drag shows instead of other pressing political issues, Slaton doubled down on his comments.
“At a drag show in Dallas this past weekend, sick adults enticed kids to put dollar bills the underwear of men dressed as women. This is disgusting and dangerous. It can’t be allowed to continue,” he tweeted. “My Republican colleagues and I will protect kids from these sickos.”
“The exploitation of any child is inappropriate and will not be tolerated under any circumstance here in Texas,” Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan said in a statement to San Antonio ABC affiliate KSAT.
Drag performer Alyssa Edwards, a Dallas-area native who became famous after appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race, responded to Slaton’s proposed legislation, tweeting: “My thoughts: 1) Our God is a God of Love. 2) Parents are a child’s 1st & most important teacher/role model. 3) Drag is an art form which is subjective. 4) You, sir, have tweeted more about #drag than the loss at #Uvalde. Is this truly about children or politics? #Priorities.”
The official RuPaul’s Drag Race Twitter account shared a video of Alyssa speaking about how drag allowed her to find her own confidence.
It then referenced and linked to a study by The Trevor Project, the world’s top suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, which found that “LGBTQ youth who lived in an accepting community, had access to affirming spaces, and/or felt high social support from family & friends reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide in the past year.”
Gia Gunn, a trans woman and former Drag Race contestant, also tweeted about Slaton’s proposal.
“This just made me sick to my stomach,” she tweeted. “@RuPaulsDragRace and alumni there must be something we can do to stop this? We need to come up with a plan…a quick one too. #dragisvalid.”
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