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Why is drag under attack?

Another step backwards for the US - why, out of everything going on, is drag such a controversial issue right now?

A drag performer smiling at a Pride event

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has just declared a state of emergency for queer people in the United States. More and more laws targeting drag are being proposed, but for what reason? Why are the freedoms and safety of the LGBTQ+ community at risk?

What is happening?

Since the end of 2022, 21 states in the US have put forward bills to ban and/or restrict drag performances. These bills range from prohibiting minors from having access to drag shows, to a ban on anyone out in public deemed to be a "male or female impersonator."

Thankfully, many states are rejecting the proposed rulings. The first law to pass was in Tennessee in March of this year, but federal judge Thomas Parker, appointed by President Trump back in 2017, recently declared the law signed in Tennessee as unconstitutional. It was ruled that the law violated freedom of speech, encouraged 'discriminatory enforcement' and was 'unconstitutionally vague.'

The law in Tennessee was the first of its kind, and was a lighter that sparked other states to propose similar bills. The law would have meant that anyone performing in drag on public property, or in the vicinity of a minor, would be charged with a misdemeanour, or with a felony for repeat offenders.

This, and other potential laws also run the risk of not only targeting drag performers, but all transgender people, including those not involved in the industry at all.

Drag has been going on long before it was permitted. Spaces for drag events to take place have, and will continue to exist regardless of the law. The people who would really be affected day-to-day by these new rulings is anyone who dresses and expressed themselves outside the boundaries of gender conformity. Many of the bills use language condemning anyone who dresses outside of what is expected based on their sex assigned at birth.

What is drag?

Republicans claim that they are acting in the interest of children - that those under the age of 18 should not be at risk of being exposed to drag entertainment. Drag cannot be categorised like this! Drag is wonderful! And varied, and cannot be put into a box. Yes, there are drag acts who do not cater to children at all; they use explicit language and adult themes, and probably should not be viewed by a young audience. But there are also performers who dress in their fabulous outfits, and wigs, and makeup and read to children at public libraries. These completely wholesome events are not a danger, they are not causing any harm, or influencing children in a negative way.

Thanks in large part to the RuPaul's Drag Race franchise, we see drag all over the place. In the UK, queens like The Vivienne have been on The Celebrity Chase and Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. You may see drag in nationally televised adverts or on posters at the bus stop. More people are discovering drag thanks to its presence in mainstream media, and those who really understand it can confirm that drag is not a danger.

What to do next?

The best way to combat this craziness is to support drag! Follow drag performers on their social media pages, support their careers, find a live show near you! I had no idea that the drag scene in my hometown was so big until discovering drag race and really delving into the drag world.

You can find more information about the US drag bans and more LGBTQ+ issues at these links:


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