Anti-Drag Bill Amended, Critics Call for Prioritization.

Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment has made its way into the Texas Legislature, with the proposed Senate Bill 12 aiming to ban sexually oriented performances in front of minors. However, the bill, which was specifically targeting drag queens and kings, has since dropped the verbiage that would have impacted drag performers in particular. Despite this change, advocates argue that drag shouldn’t be demonized and should be celebrated instead.

While some Republican lawmakers argue that the bill would help to end the “sexualization of children,” Trey Stewart, owner of Dallas’ Mr. Misster, believes that drag doesn’t fall under the umbrella of sexually oriented performances and removing the drag references only helps to eliminate an unnecessary attack on drag performers.

The bill was approved by a 9-4 committee vote last week and businesses that violate it could face civil penalties up to $10,000, while performers could receive a $4,000 fine and spend up to a year in jail. The House version of the bill may have removed drag references, but there is still a chance they could come up again on the floor as an amendment or in conference committee.

While the term “sexually oriented performance” doesn’t currently exist under Texas law, it is already illegal to have explicit performances in front of minors. The new version of the bill creates an offense that could cause confusion and misunderstanding since the bill was originally introduced as a drag performer bill, suggests communication director for Equality Texas, Johnathan Gooch.

Already, the bill has created a “chilling effect,” per Gooch. One example is Houston-based Pearl Bar, one of the two lesbian bars in Texas, which was refused insurance because it hosts drag shows. If the bar closes, Sue Ellen’s in Dallas would be the only lesbian bar in Texas.

While there is a growing moral panic around drag shows, many argue that they aren’t inherently harmful to children and should be celebrated. Drag queens and kings provide a form of artistic expression meant to make people smile and shouldn’t be demonized as a form of sexual entertainment. Instead, there are other things lawmakers could focus on to better protect society.

Overall, the proposed legislation to outlaw sexually oriented performances in front of children sheds light on the debate surrounding the continued push and pull between anti-LGBTQ+ views and the push for acceptance and celebration of LGBTQ+ rights.

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