Durham, NC- On the heels of the 2022 Zero Transphobia Campaign and this eve of World AIDS Day, many of us still are grieving and reeling from the deaths and injuries at Club Q. Still, the Latino Commission on AIDS is taking a necessary and proud stance with the drag community. Drag artists have been at the forefront of challenging harmful gender stereotypes and have amplified HIV education throughout the history of the epidemic while contributing to spaces of joy and community healing.
“The drag community has used its platform to fundraise for our cause. Many kings and queens have taken public stands against HIV stigma, while drag shows have continuously provided local programs space for HIV testing and education. Drag shows are just the latest targets for anti-LGBTQ lawmakers, who have no idea how liberating a drag show can be. Now is the time for the HIV community to give back to one of our strongest allies by speaking up against the harmful bills, protests, and homophobic/transphobic rhetoric targeting this community.” says Edric Figueroa the director of Zero Campaigns at the Latino Commission on AIDS.
GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, reports that in 2022, 124 anti-LGBTQ protests and threats targeting drag events have occurred. While only 9 states have introduced legislative proposals aimed at restricting or banning drag, these incidents have occurred across 47 states. Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, Tennessee, California, and Georgia saw the highest numbers of vitriolic responses to drag shows.
In Texas, the House of Representatives introduced HB 643 to expand the state’s definition of a “sexually oriented business” to include any venue that serves alcohol and hosts a “drag performance.” The bill would define “drag performance” as when “a performer exhibits a gender identity that is different from the performer's gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.” This language has transphobic implications that targets any trans person who “performs” in a liquor-licensed venue and has the potential to broadly apply to community theaters, restaurants, and additional venues which provide community events. It is an attempt at legislative regulation and restriction of gender, expression, and another strategy to limit our community resources. This is just the latest dig near the end of an exhausting legislative year that has proposed more than 225 anti-LGBTQ bills around the country.
“If a single bill targeting drag shows passes anywhere in this nation, it will open the door for more and more to unfurl. Drag shows are sources of education and entertainment alike, for all generations. These bills, however, introduce a new danger upon performers, many of whom already are subjected to the harms of transphobia and homophobia. Additionally, by putting venues that host such shows at the center of these bills, governments are jeopardizing the few safe spaces LGBTQIA+ individuals have. Especially after what happened at Club Q, we must confront these targeted attacks as we cannot afford to lose another community space or community member.” says Joaquin Carcano, the Director of Southern Health Policy at the Latino Commission on AIDS.
We call on our colleagues and partners, venues, and community spaces to stand in solidarity with our beloved drag and trans artists and not let these legislative intimidation tactics win.