At this point in evaluating results from the midterm elections, we know the so-called red tsunami simply did not materialize. Did Democrats have some considerable losses and disappointments? Yes. But we had a lot of considerable wins, too, including in unexpected places and on the local level. We didn’t get governor spots in Georgia and Texas, yes. But Republicans certainly didn’t win so soundly they’re going to sit back and be quiet for a while.
In fact, on Wednesday, Republicans in Tennessee pre-filed a bill to criminalize drag shows. If this bill makes its way into law, it would make drag shows a crime that could result in charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony. Yes, really. SB 3 is remarkably broad, vague, and sweeping—if signed into law, it could be applied to anything from a drag show to a drag queen story hour to even certain comedy acts and other performances.
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Per the bill’s summary online, the legislation seeks to make it an “offense” for “a person who engages in an adult cabaret performance on public property or in a location where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult.”
Advocates and writers Alejandra Carabello and Erin Reed shared insights into the bills on Twitter as well, where folks were understandably horrified and worried.
As we’ve continued to cover here at Daily Kos, far-right extremists have made it a habit to show up and harass drag performers—and guests coming to see the show—across the country. Sometimes this means harassing adults, but queerphobes have also shown their willingness to terrorize literal children who are trying to, say, enter a public library for a storytime event or enter a restaurant for a family-friendly drag show with their parents.
Conservatives will say drag shows are inappropriate or obscene, just the same way they’re saying books by and about LGBTQ+ people are inappropriate, or that trans folks using the correct bathroom for their gender identity is somehow dangerous, or the way that even discussing LGBTQ+ people in the classroom needs a statewide ban …
But we all know, rationally, these are attacks meant to get their voter base upset enough to hit the polls. Drag shows are just fine. Picture books with same-sex parents are fine. Knowing a teacher or coach has a same-sex spouse is fine. It’s all fine! But conservatives know they continue to fail constituents on real issues, like COVID-19 response, gun violence, and especially when it comes to reproductive health and access. They fail again and again, so they turn, again and again, to outdated rhetoric and policy ideas that should have been left in the past.
To dig further into this point, even the bill language referencing “male or female impersonators” could be worrisome in terms of trans rights and anti-discrimination protections in the state. Now, people in drag are not necessarily trans. Doing drag does not mean you are trans. Trans people are not doing drag. Trans people are not performing an identity any more than anyone else. But if conservatives are able to loop people into their hate logic, and present trans people as trying to “trick” people or “hide” their identities, all of a sudden, it’s a lot easier for hateful people to say, “Well, this person says they’re trans, but they’re really just an impersonator trying to get into the bathroom for some evil purpose.”
It doesn’t make sense, not really. But Republicans just want people heated enough that they don't care about logic.