Drag is a type of performance art which surrounds the exaggeration of gender expression, with many drag artists identifying as drag queens or drag kings.
Pioneered by LGBTQ people of color, drag artists often perform many talents, including lip synching, singing, dancing, stand up comedy and more, all while challenging the bounds of traditional gender roles.
For a long time, drag was thought of as simply cross dressing. Today, drag is respected and understood as much more than cross dressing, with many women becoming drag queens and men becoming drag kings, too.
While drag queens and kings are not necessarily transgender, many within the drag community do identify as transgender. It’s a misconception that drag artists and transgender people are the same.
Since the early 2010s, drag has become a cornerstone of pop culture, even becoming the subject for many popular reality TV shows, including the Emmy Award-winning RuPaul’s Drag Race.
However, drag artists have always faced discrimination — and recently, drag has been under attack.
In March, Tennessee became the first state to sign a law restricting drag shows from being public or in front of children.
In May, Montana banned drag performers from reading books to children in schools and libraries, something many drag artists have done to educate children on LGBTQ topics.
After federal courts struck down these laws as unconstitutional, both Tennessee and Montana were unable to enforce the bans. Nevertheless, this hasn’t erased discrimination stemming from the legislation.
Several other states including Arizona, Texas, West Virginia, Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota and Missouri have anti-drag bills advancing in state legislatures. These bills range from classifying drag as adult entertainment to classifying parents who take their children to drag shows as sex offenders.
While anti-drag legislation is justified as a means of child protection, drag queens and kings are not a threat to children.
Drag shows can include adult entertainment, but family-friendly drag shows do not contain this content. Most drag shows for children are comparable to princess performances found at amusement parks.
The true purpose for banning or restricting drag is to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and to uphold traditional gender roles.
Anything that goes outside these roles is often deemed harmful to children on the basis that it is sexually oriented. This only affirms the false notion that drag performers, transgender people or gender nonconforming people are inappropriate for children to be around.
The true intentions of drag bans and restrictions can be seen in the rise of anti-LGTBQ legislation in the states targeting drag.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been tracking 496 bills across the U.S. that target rights of LGBTQ people, with 84 already passed into law.
Many of the bills restrict gender-affirming care for transgender minors, prohibit transgender athletes from participating in school sports and restrict school access to books and resources on LGBTQ topics.
Violence and hatred have oppressed LGBTQ people throughout all of American history, and the community has fought tirelessly, with drag artists at its frontlines.
While the legislation doesn’t come as a surprise, it is a major step back. It continues to create harmful environments for drag artists and even discrimination for allies who support them.
Despite being an art form that fosters and promotes acceptance and love, drag is seen and treated as a crime.
Drag is not a crime. It is a fight. It is a protest. It is a celebration.