Texas Drag Shows Debate Intensifies; Here’s Anti-Drag Bills’ Status in US

Texas Rep. Nate Schatzline joked about dressing in a dress for a school play. At least if a planned regulation classifies drag performance venues as sexually oriented companies, which requires additional taxes and licenses.

House Bill 1266 was assigned to the House State Affairs Committee on Friday, two days after a dress-wearing Schatzline video surfaced. The legislator is seen playing with classmates in a black dress.

Democratic activist Michelle Davis shared the years-old clip. Democratic groups criticized Schatzline for wearing a dress while proposing drag show regulations. The freshman representative responded to the video by ignoring the social media taunts.

Schatzline’s bill doesn’t distinguish between sexually explicit drag shows and a guy performing in a theater, bar, nightclub, or other commercial establishments in a dress. Schatzline was unavailable to answer Texas Tribune inquiries this week.

None of the measures to date specify what attire or cosmetics are deemed to be gender-specific by lawmakers. However, lawmakers haven’t clarified why wearing certain items of clothing or applying certain cosmetics makes someone look sexual.

The controversy is similar to one that recently occurred in Tennessee, where Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation prohibiting adult cabaret performances on public grounds into law on Thursday.

The shows that feature topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators that give entertainment that appeals to a prurient curiosity, or similar entertainers are those that this law describes as falling under its purview.

A picture of Lee wearing a dress in 1977 surfaced online before the bill was signed. Lee laughed off accusations of hypocrisy. A lot of drag isn’t sexual, according to Jonathan Gooch, a representative for the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas. He added that because it’s so broad, it might catch activities that lawmakers aren’t attempting to restrict, including concerts and enterprises.

If the proposal is approved, it would have a significant impact on both small and major companies around the state, including coffee shops, bookstores, and theaters, since it would force them to decide whether to stop hosting drag events or to incur additional licensing fees and taxes. Opponents assert that the legislators’ deliberate distortion of drag is the cause of the plans.

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Bills Against Drag Shows in the US

Drag shows have recently been under fire from conservatives as various anti-drag bills have been proposed in at least fourteen different states, including Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and others.

The language of the several pieces of legislation is identical to the Tennessee law, which forbids adult cabaret performances that kids could attend in public areas. Adult cabaret is defined in Tennessee’s legislation as adult-targeted shows that feature male or female impersonators.

Although the law does not outlaw all drag events in Tennessee, supporters are nevertheless concerned about the bill’s potential wider consequences on the queer community. Far-right organizations and conservatives across the country are pushing for similar laws that they argue will better safeguard children.

LGBTQ+ supporters claim that these measures are only the most recent assault from conservatives after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

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