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Designing Women S5 E19 Extra Sugar - The World of Drag

Updated: Mar 4

Suzanne’s stand off with female impersonator Lolita DuPage got us thinking – and chatting – about the world of drag: its history–or herstory if you will–the major players, and the legal attempts to restrict it in recent years.


We promised you these:


Dragstory:


Pioneers of drag:


Current Events


Come on y’all, let’s get into it! 




 

Transcript

Salina: Hey, Nikki.

Nikki: Hey, Salina.

Salina: Hey, y'all.

Salina: And welcome to this week's edition of Extra Sugar, where Nikki Watt watches me grab sweaters out of the closet because I'm freezing.

Nikki: I was trying to figure out what you were doing in a segment about drag.

Nikki: You just started grabbing clothes, and I wasn't sure what was about to happen.

Salina: Oh, my God.

Salina: I wish.

Salina: I wish that I was that good.

Salina: I was telling a friend recently that I felt like my closest experience to doing something like that was dressing up like Cruella Deville for Halloween.

Salina: That's the most makeup I've worn in.

Salina: Many just beat.

Salina: We just beat myself to my own punch.

Salina: But Suzanne's standoff with female impersonator Lolita DuPage got us thinking about the world of drag.

Salina: And by we, I mean me, its history, or herstory, rather, the major players and the legal attempts to restrict it in recent years.

Salina: So longtime listeners know that we already have an affinity for the art form.

Salina: And if you haven't heard, we'd welcome you to go back to season two, episode eight, where we met legendary drag performer and the master and mistress of surprise and disguise, Charles Pierce.

Salina: I also want to plug 77, episode nine of the reality tv competition series RuPaul's Drag Race.

Salina: This is the all Stars edition, where contestants were asked to prepare a spoken word, lip sync performance of a classic scene from, you guessed it, designing women.

Salina: They selected none other than Julia's iconic the night the lights went out in Georgia.

Salina: This speech is from season one, episode two.

Salina: You guys want me to throw you some more numbers?

Salina: Because I can.

Salina: But we'll link to that from our blog post, in case you haven't seen it before.

Salina: And then finally, I will be remiss to not mention fellow designing women podcast Mims and Mame baking Sugar, hosted by drag queens Auntie Mame and the divine Miss Mims.

Salina: I believe anti mame regularly performs in the Miami area.

Salina: So, Nikki, as always, please pop in with questions.

Salina: Okay?

Salina: Let me know what's on your mind, as long as you're okay with it being recorded.

Nikki: Well, that's different.

Salina: And I will do what I can to respond or not.

Salina: So let's get into the history, shall we?

Nikki: We shall.

Salina: Drag is many things.

Salina: It is art.

Salina: It is entertainment.

Salina: It is community.

Salina: Quote, drag is the theatrical exaggeration of gender, said Joe E.

Salina: Jeffries, a drag historian and adjunct instructor of New York University, who noted that the art form constantly subverts what people think they know about gender.

Salina: And I am not laughing at Joe.

Salina: I'm laughing at myself, who forgot how to read.

Nikki: Well, you got yourself all tongue tied with the numbers earlier.

Nikki: Adjunct is a very challenging word, yes.

Salina: Especially if you're me and you mispronounce everything.

Nikki: Too many consonants that don't go next to one another.

Nikki: Next to one another in that word.

Salina: That's true.

Nikki: Adjunct.

Salina: Hard for the southerner.

Salina: Help me anyway.

Salina: So drag is arguably more mainstream today than any other time in history.

Salina: Between brunches, bingos, story hours, and of course, RuPaul's drag race, which you're going to hear about more than once, more than twice, more than three times, probably five times.

Salina: You'll hear about it.

Salina: We'll see.

Nikki: I'm okay with that.

Salina: Great.

Salina: What it's worth, it feels worth noting that I'm about to talk about a history that is at best murky and for very good reason.

Salina: A lot of drag's history has been in secret or in hiding because it had to be.

Salina: I might share some details today that bump up against what you believe or know, but please know I've made a good faith effort to represent the culture as accurately as I can.

Salina: Even the term drag is challenging to trace back.

Salina: For instance, private balls, or drags are believed to come from grand rag, an old term for masquerade balls.

Salina: Others believe the term is an ode to how dresses would drag the floor during performances.

Salina: Either way, it's arguably been around forever.

Salina: Frank DeCaro, or DeCaro, author of Drag Combing through the Big Wigs of show business, explained it this way in a 2019 NPR article and also saved me about five paragraphs.

Salina: In ancient Greece, men were playing female roles.

Salina: In shakespearean times, it was the same thing in the kabuki tradition.

Salina: In Japan, it was going on in minstrel shows, they had a drag queen in vaudeville.

Salina: In burlesque, there's always been someone cross dressing for work.

Salina: So yes, it is partly emerged from female impersonators on stages and even silent film.

Salina: According to National Geographic, some historians believe that the origin of drag belongs to Ernest Bolton in 1860s, Victoria and England.

Salina: His description of his cross dressing act as drag is the first known use of the term.

Salina: At the same time, here in the US, drag was also emerging and flourishing in Harlem's underground drag balls.

Salina: According to CNN here quote, black, queer and trans residents donned dresses and wigs to perform in a safe, creative environment, and drag balls would evolve into house balls by the early 1970s, becoming even more inclusive.

Salina: And competition shifted from these pageant style competitions between more on an individual level to competition between houses, on everything from beauty to body and performance.

Salina: For me, because of the houses, I couldn't help but think about, like, greek life.

Salina: It's kind of what it sounded like to me.

Salina: Yeah.

Salina: So ball culture still exists today around the world and has been mainstreamed by competition shows again, like RuPaul's Drag Race or legendary, which I think might be on HBO.

Salina: Ryan Murphy's scripted series pose, which included the most trans actors in tv history.

Salina: There's also the 1990 documentary Paris is burning that offers a glimpse at house culture in New York City.

Salina: We'll link to that for folks who are interested.

Salina: I watched it in preparation for today's episode, and I thought it was very good.

Salina: I won't say much more than that because I don't want to ruin it for people who haven't seen it.

Salina: But drag had an earlier mainstream moment from the late 1920s to the mid 1930s with the pansy craze.

Salina: Drag queens, known at the time as pansy performers, gained underground popularity in the nightclubs and cabaret of major cities, La, New York, Chicago, San Francisco.

Salina: Gene Malin, or the Queen of the Pansy Craze appeared on Broadway in a couple of movies.

Salina: Unfortunately, he died in a car crash at age 25.

Salina: But here's the thing, the movement would come to a screeching halt anyways thanks to the Hayes code in Hollywood.

Salina: If you're not familiar with the Hayes code, this was the production code that required movies to be, quote, wholesome and, quote, moral and encourage, quote, correct thinking, as well as police crackdowns on the public presence of homosexuals during the Great Depression related to calls to clean up the downtown nightlife.

Salina: So, you know, like, nothing trouble in those accounts.

Nikki: That was a lot of words all shoved together.

Salina: That all were like, oh, my gosh.

Salina: It just got worse and worse and worse.

Salina: And I want to say that I was pretty much quoting all through that because I don't think any of those were words I would string together myself.

Nikki: Oh, my gosh.

Salina: It's amazing to me in this because I know I'm going through a lot of history right now, but I think the history piece is important because sometimes I'm like, wow, I can't believe how progressive things were.

Salina: And sometimes I'm like, wow, I can't believe we're in h***.

Salina: So it just sort of depends on where I'm at.

Salina: And sometimes all those things are happening at once.

Salina: So there's that.

Nikki: That feels good.

Salina: It does, doesn't it?

Salina: Sometimes I would might think that feels like Monday to Friday.

Salina: I also want to mention the jewel Box review created in 1939 by partners Danny Brown and Doc Benner.

Salina: It was America's first racially inclusive traveling review of female impersonators.

Salina: The review toured the US for three decades, appearing at big time venues, including the Apollo in New York City, but they are also attributed as creating the first gay community.

Salina: Drag performers have been on the front lines of the gay rights movement, notably in the Stonewall uprising in 1969, including Stormy de Laveri.

Salina: You got it.

Salina: De Laveri, a veteran of the jewel box review.

Salina: That's French again, isn't it?

Salina: They're trying to kill me, I think.

Nikki: Sounds like it.

Salina: Before Stonewall, police regularly raided gay bars in the US, and drinking while gay, was essentially illegal in New York state.

Nikki: Oh, my.

Salina: Like what?

Nikki: Oh, my gosh.

Salina: Queens and other performers were also instrumental during the AIDS crisis, raising money through fundraising events or through groups like the Sisters of perpetual indulgence to house AIDS patients and pay for health care.

Salina: Also, sisters of perpetual indulgence is maybe my favorite name ever.

Nikki: Sounds very New Orleans.

Salina: So wonderful.

Salina: I'm like, how do I get in there?

Salina: So I do want to mention that despite this being a very inclusive place, when you think about this particular world and this culture and the performance aspect and all of this prejudice and isms can still rear their head in spite.

Nikki: Of all of that.

Salina: So racial bias and competitions, it was a thing.

Salina: Could still be a thing.

Salina: I can't speak to that.

Salina: But despite its balls having been interracial, it took 69 years for a black contestant to take home the top prize at Harlem's Hamilton Lodge.

Salina: Now, this happened in 1936, so you could argue they were doing better than other pockets of the US.

Salina: Trans women who performed in drag were often ostracized because many female impersonation, excuse me, because for many, female impersonation depended on maleness.

Salina: So even as late as 2018, there was some debate over whether trans women who'd undergone gender affirming procedures could compete on RuPaul's drag race.

Salina: This stemmed from some comments that RuPaul made over the years and eventually came out and apologized for.

Salina: We'll link to a longer vulture article for those who want to dig in deeper there.

Salina: They're very long articles.

Salina: There you go.

Nikki: Vulture is known for that.

Salina: They do that.

Salina: Drag kings like Malcolm Ecstasy hope that, quote, the drag movement will welcome more women.

Salina: In an NPR article, she was paraphrased saying she thinks that the lack of a place for women is related to gender norms and misogyny and hopes the movement will come to incorporate drag kings.

Salina: I will have to tell you, I had to sit with that one for a while, because I do think it's interesting how there's an interest in emulating women but maybe not bringing women into the fold.

Salina: And it breaks my brain a little bit.

Nikki: I'm having a little trouble with it.

Salina: Because.

Nikki: Yeah, I'm going to have to sit with that.

Nikki: Well, then we're all just dressing up and masquerading.

Nikki: And is that the idea?

Salina: This will come up as we talk a little bit more about the things that it pushes people to think about and do.

Salina: And I think all those things are still true.

Salina: I think what I just want to remind people is it doesn't matter.

Salina: Some of these forces in the world are so great and they're so much bigger than us that even when we're trying to push back and fight back on norms, those norms tend to creep in.

Salina: Just something interesting to think about.

Salina: I will tell you that from my perspective, some of it almost feels like bad pr, like they just don't have the public relations team.

Salina: I had never even heard of a drag king until maybe three years ago.

Salina: I just didn't even know that was a thing.

Salina: So also, it could just be like, Salina, you're ignorant.

Salina: So there's that.

Nikki: I don't think ignorant necessarily.

Nikki: I think it's just not part of your world.

Nikki: So you're learning about it.

Salina: Ignorance.

Salina: Yeah.

Nikki: But not in like a willful ignorance sort of way.

Salina: Just completely.

Nikki: Yeah.

Salina: So people may not realize the impact that drag culture has had on mainstream, but I assure you it is there.

Salina: So voguing drag culture.

Salina: So, yes, Madonna's iconic pop song was influenced by the culture and her video included a few real vogue performers.

Salina: That history is both complicated and interesting.

Salina: If you want to see more on that culture, especially at the time I point you back again to Paris is burning because you see a lot of those dancers voguing and it's incredible.

Salina: I don't know how they're doing that with their bodies.

Salina: Modern slang.

Salina: Yes.

Salina: Queen, work, shade, all of those things also have come to us via drag.

Salina: And then you felt so dumb saying yes.

Salina: That's why I had to work myself up to it.

Salina: Also, this one I almost didn't include because this feels very old timey to me.

Salina: But may West's famous line, why don't you come up and see me sometime?

Salina: That comes from a bit by a drag comedian named Bert Savoy.

Salina: So just to say these things kind of creep in.

Salina: They come in through the mainstream culture and then many of us might find ourselves saying them or not saying them or wondering why did I just try and say that it can happen in all kinds of ways.

Salina: So I also looked into different pioneers of drag, and I've selected five to share with you.

Salina: Worth noting that I've tried to adhere to preferred pronouns, but given the length of years we're covering, that exercise becomes a little challenging.

Salina: Please know it was a consideration in my prep.

Salina: First up, we have to talk about William Dorsey Swan, and what I'll share comes from a great Smithsonian article that we'll link to from our blog and show notes.

Salina: He came up a lot in my research, and of course he did.

Salina: He was the first self proclaimed drag queen here in the United States.

Salina: His contribution was only recently uncovered back in 2005, when a grad student and now a historian and journalist, Channing Gerard Joseph, ran across an 1888 Washington Post news article that mentioned Swan.

Salina: Some of this, just like how long this has been around, is just crazy to me.

Salina: This is what I was talking about.

Salina: Sometimes things are so, like, boundary pushing, and then there's like, the part of the world that's pushing back on the boundary pushers.

Salina: It's just very fascinating.

Salina: Because of Joseph's discovery and subsequent research, we now know much more about Swan and his role in drag.

Salina: So Swan was born into slavery in Maryland around 1858, but around 1880, he made his way to DC.

Salina: There, he held underground parties that are considered the first documented drag balls in us history.

Salina: There was a competitive element to the parties, and this was inspired by the queens of freedom, who were crowned at annual Emancipation Day parades.

Salina: Swan would crown winners at his parties as queens of the ball.

Salina: Police raids were a risk for both Swan and attendees, and those who were caught would be shamed in the newspapers, which was the type of article swan was discovered in, and charged with something really solid, like being suspicious characters.

Salina: You could also be jailed up to ten months for that.

Salina: Which is exactly what happened to Swan, who was first arrested in 1895 for, get this, keeping a disorderly house, aka a brothel.

Salina: I'm not sure I trust any of these accounts, though, to be honest, because there's more.

Nikki: My house is kind of disorderly.

Nikki: This is what I was saying.

Nikki: As a brothel, necessarily.

Salina: Oh, there's still time.

Nikki: Okay.

Salina: So a few months later, in early 1896, he was sentenced to 300 days in prison for another party where the Evening Star reported, quote, a number of men, white and colored, were found in his place.

Salina: He pled not guilty and petitioned for a pardon from then President Grover Cleveland.

Salina: After serving three months, his plea was denied.

Salina: A couple of things to call out here so that it's clear what we're dealing with the US attorney aa Bernie had this to say.

Nikki: U.

Nikki: S.

Nikki: Attorney aa Bernie.

Salina: I didn't even notice that till then.

Salina: He had this to say when he pushed back on the plea, quote, the prisoner was in fact convicted of the most horrible and disgusting offenses known to the law, an offense so disgusting that it must be unnamed.

Salina: His evil example in the community must have been most corrupting.

Salina: Okay, so just a slight touch of homophobia in the mix there also.

Salina: Yeah.

Salina: Also, if you're going to argue to keep me in prison, you're going to have to name that terrible thing.

Salina: You know what I'm saying?

Salina: The historical importance here pointed out by Joseph, again, this is who unearthed Swan in the first place, is that this is, quote, the earliest documented example of an american activist taking specific legal and political steps to defend the queer community's right to gather without the threat of criminalization, suppression, or police violence.

Salina: So a brothel is a whole different thing, just to be clear.

Salina: But based on the way that that attorney general was talking to me, it sounds like they just had a big problem with people being gay there.

Salina: So that's where like, we got a whole nother thing going on.

Salina: So next up is Julian El Tinge, who came up probably the second most in my research.

Salina: The information I'll share here is from the Legacy project, so link to that as well.

Salina: Thank you, Nikki.

Salina: Every time I say we, it's such the royal we.

Salina: El Tinge was a female impersonator and vaudeville star who once performed, at the request of King Edward VI.

Salina: Dear God, please don't test me on who that is, but I think that's the abdicator.

Salina: You might be right.

Salina: Snow telling he starred on Broadway and in silent Hollywood films and was at the time one of the highest paid actors in the US.

Salina: His portrayal was distinguished not a caricature, but rather a transformation that took 2 hours along with the help of his, quote, male japanese dresser.

Salina: I don't know why it's important that that person was also japanese, but that was in the article, so there you go.

Salina: The Legacy Project specifically noted that he was gay, but known for overcompensating by frequently getting in fistfights, smoking cigars, and having long engagements with women, all of which were captured in stage publicity photographs.

Salina: Toward the end of his career, it became harder for him to perform in costume between the decline of female impersonations, popularity, and crackdowns on cross dressing in public.

Salina: So some of these prominent drag figures are sort of crossing over that history that we talked about before.

Salina: Number three is Joan Jett Black so peppermint on Masters of Drag did a far superior job to anything that I can tell you.

Salina: So we'll link to her video, but I will share these highlights.

Salina: So Joan Jett Black, who is the Persona of Terrence Smith, ran for several political offices, and they did this to bring visibility to the queer community and push forward progressive ideas that would not be called for widely by politicians for many, many years.

Salina: So here are a couple of those.

Salina: Universal health care, eliminating student debt, gay rights, and reproductive rights.

Salina: John Jet Black ran for mayor in Chicago and San Francisco, but most notably for president in 1992, even making it all the way to the Democratic National Convention.

Salina: Of note, they were not allowed to enter in drag.

Salina: So Terrence walked through those doors, went to the bathroom, and reemerged as Jojet Black.

Nikki: I love that so much.

Salina: Good for them.

Nikki: That's great.

Salina: My number four is fittingly a pair.

Salina: Marcia P.

Salina: Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were both drag queens and activists and played key roles in the 1969 Stonewall uprising.

Salina: Again, this was the event that galvanized the LGBTQ community and lit fires under the US's modern gay rights movement.

Salina: So, according to the Advocate, they also founded the street transvestite Action revolutionaries.

Salina: They were both early pioneers in fighting for trans rights, which you can probably pick up based on the use of the word transvestite in their organization, because for folks who don't know, transgender wasn't quite in the lexicon that long ago.

Salina: From what I've read, they both had really hard lives.

Salina: So Rivera was an orphan who started streetwalking in New York at age eleven.

Salina: And according to New York Times, Johnson battled severe mental illness, was usually destitute and effectively homeless for most of her life.

Salina: But they found their home in the drag community, and much of their work centered around protecting those who came after them.

Salina: Rivera died in 2002 of complications from liver cancer.

Salina: Johnson's death is much less clear.

Salina: She was found in the Hudson river on July 6, 1992, and her death was determined as suicide.

Salina: Later that year, it was reclassified to a drowning from undetermined causes, and then in 2012, they reopened the case.

Salina: Her case remains open to this day.

Salina: Number five.

Salina: I almost didn't include this pick because it felt too obvious, but roll with me.

Nikki: I'm sorry.

Salina: So this person, who no one can guess, reportedly once said, I do not impersonate females.

Salina: How many women do you know who wear seven inch hills, four foot wigs, and skin tight dresses?

Salina: And my answer to that would be, it depends on what coast you're on, but not so much on the east coast.

Salina: And I do think maybe this is before the Kylie Jenners of the world.

Salina: You may know them as Glamazon, supermodel of the world.

Salina: Someone ruined my intro, so I'ma read it anyway.

Salina: The world's most famous drag queen, mama rue or rue.

Salina: That's right.

Salina: The one, the only, RuPaul.

Salina: RuPaul is really brand new information.

Salina: You would have never, ever guessed it.

Salina: So RuPaul, actor, model, singer songwriter, television personality, and author.

Salina: For the record, RuPaul doesn't care about pronouns and goes by he and she, so I may or may not change them up as I go along.

Salina: We'll see.

Nikki: See how you feel today.

Salina: We'll see how I feel.

Salina: I can barely remember a time when I didn't know who RuPaul was.

Salina: I, like, just don't remember.

Salina: And that was way, way before there was any drag race anywhere.

Salina: With accolades.

Salina: Almost too many to name.

Salina: Perhaps first and foremost, I'll name them, though.

Salina: First and foremost, RuPaul has arguably done more for the mainstreaming of drag culture than anyone ever.

Salina: But especially in the modern era, I couldn't find anyone at quite this level.

Nikki: I thought your number one was going to be RuPaul's appearance in the Brady Bunch movie.

Nikki: I thought that was going to be the number one contribution to the world.

Salina: I literally don't remember RuPaul being in that movie.

Salina: Shut up.

Salina: But I saw that movie once in 1995.

Salina: Once again, we're hitting right in.

Salina: Squarely.

Salina: What, you watch this every year?

Nikki: It's my September tradition.

Salina: I'm just kidding.

Nikki: But I do love those movies.

Salina: I probably need to go back and watch it.

Nikki: It's just good movies.

Nikki: Just darn good movies.

Nikki: You know, I had a thing for the Brady bunch, so that's not RuPaul's number one contribution to pop culture.

Nikki: I understand.

Salina: Well, hold on, hold on, hold on.

Salina: I don't know.

Salina: I don't know.

Salina: Let's get there.

Salina: Maybe it's there.

Salina: But don't worry.

Salina: Don't worry, Nikki.

Salina: I do have a southern tie in.

Salina: Yes, it's true.

Salina: RuPaul was not born in the south.

Salina: He was born in San Diego.

Salina: But he first made it big on the Atlanta drag scene.

Nikki: I think I knew that.

Nikki: I do think I knew that.

Salina: In fact, the performer appears in the B 52s Love shack music video.

Salina: Did you know that?

Salina: I didn't.

Nikki: Somewhere in the recesses of my brain.

Salina: Probably, there's so many things we know in our brains.

Nikki: There is a lot.

Salina: But in case you don't know, the B 52s are from Athens, Georgia, where.

Nikki: We can get together.

Salina: In case you don't know who the B 52s are, they're a musical group.

Salina: And in case you don't know what love Shack is, Nikki was just singing it.

Nikki: You're welcome.

Salina: It's either great or grading, depending on how you feel about that song.

Nikki: Sometimes two things can be true at one.

Salina: That's true.

Salina: So here are a few other things that make RuPaul so singular.

Salina: She's made 15 studio albums.

Salina: The first supermodel of the world in 93 includes four number one singles.

Salina: Four.

Nikki: Oh my gosh.

Nikki: That is brand new information.

Salina: It was brand new for me.

Salina: He scored all the first with Mac cosmetics in 1994 or 95, depending on what you're reading.

Salina: He was the first spokesperson for their Viva Glam line that supports the Mac AIDS fund.

Salina: Also the first drag queen and the first man to be a spokesperson.

Salina: Since that time, Mac AIDS foundation has raised more than 400,000,100% of the sales price goes to fight HIV.

Salina: I am saying it in that exact way because that's what it said on the website.

Salina: That felt like very particular language.

Salina: She hosted the RuPaul show on VH one from 96 to 97, and they made over 100 episodes of that show.

Salina: This diva has appeared in more than 50 movies and tv shows, including the Brady Bunch.

Salina: I didn't have that there, but that's okay.

Salina: Cameos and legitimate roles both.

Salina: And I happen to think that RuPaul is a very good actor.

Salina: RuPaul produces and hosts RuPaul's Drag race.

Salina: I don't know if we've mentioned it before or not.

Salina: From this, he has earned 14 Primetime Emmy awards, making him a Guinness World book Records title holder for most Emmy wins for outstanding host of reality and competition program, and most Emmy awards of any black artist in history.

Salina: And on March 16, 2018, RuPaul was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television.

Salina: I just needed to take a breath.

Salina: We simply can't talk about dragon, not talk about its repeated appearance in the news this past year.

Salina: The bottom line is that there have been a lot of attempts to restrict it legislatively, especially when and where it can be performed.

Salina: I'm going to run through some examples.

Salina: Relying on a vox article from September of last year, Tennessee and Montana have enacted laws explicitly targeting drag performers.

Salina: Then you've got Florida, Texas, Arkansas, and North Dakota.

Salina: And they have laws targeting adult performances that can be used to target drag shows and that in some cases, have been used to do so.

Salina: But Vox also explains that the legislation is basically flimsy.

Salina: By that, I mean that it's either unconstitutionally vague or impermissibly broad.

Salina: I don't know about you, I love legalese.

Salina: So just in case that doesn't make any sense to anyone, including myself, because they're just words, legalese.

Salina: When you're talking about something about being impermissibly broad, here's an example.

Salina: The language might try and restrict performances exhibiting something like, quote, flamboyance, parody, glamour, and exaggerated costumes.

Salina: But that's like, a lot of performances.

Salina: That's like a Katy Perry concert, for instance.

Salina: That's a Taylor swift, Beyonce.

Salina: The list goes on and on and on.

Salina: So what are we really talking about here?

Salina: So, for these reasons and for now, they haven't really been holding up in court.

Salina: Two federal court decisions have blocked Tennessee's anti drag law.

Salina: Federal courts have done the same, similar laws in Montana, Florida, and Texas.

Salina: And if I remember correctly from my reading, we're talking conservatively appointed judges giving these things the old, no, no, not in my house.

Salina: This kind of legislation.

Salina: This kind of legislation isn't quite at the fever pitch it was last year, but it hasn't stopped either.

Salina: So, just this month, and we're in February, House Bill 402 and Senate Bill 147 were filed in Kentucky with the goal of restricting where drag shows can be performed.

Salina: According to the Lexington Herald leader, the stated goal was to keep, quote, adult oriented performances away from kids and teens with the intention of, quote, preserving the innocence of children and applying to sexually explicit drag performances.

Salina: Here's the problem.

Salina: The bill language didn't clearly define sexually explicit or the delineation between a show that is and isn't.

Salina: And this is my favorite rhetoric, and I want to be cautious about this.

Salina: I realize I'm not a parent, but just go with me on this journey, will you?

Salina: Nikki, will you go with me on this journey?

Salina: Okay, so that rhetoric being protect the children at all costs, even the cost of our freedom.

Salina: Some politicians have discussed criminally charging parents who take their kids to a drag event.

Salina: And I am not talking about a body club performance that is already age restricted for all the reasons, including patrons don't want children there.

Salina: We're talking a drag performer reading a children's book to kids in a library.

Salina: It's not so different than, say, taking children to Disney World, where they can see people dressed up in a lot of makeup and in costume as princesses.

Salina: So if parents don't want to expose their children to drag, it's simple.

Salina: They don't have to just don't go.

Salina: Exactly.

Salina: But don't legislate parenting and restrict people's first right amendments under the red herring of, quote, not harming children, especially alongside, oh, I don't know, proposing steep cuts to free and reduce school lunch programs nationwide?

Salina: Oh yes, because that's what was happening around the same time last year.

Salina: And I'll also add that free and low cost lunch kept me fed for many, many years.

Salina: Further, there isn't any evidence drag harms children, nor is there evidence that performers are trying to groom or sexualize children.

Salina: But all of this broad legislation they keep trying to push through could roll back the rights of those in the gay community, and particularly for trans people.

Salina: It also stifles things like art, performance, creativity, and perhaps, just perhaps, these are ramifications worth considering, too.

Salina: I'm not sure these politicians are truly scared for children, but I am certain this is driven by fear, fear of everything else drag does, questioning gender and social norms and making audiences think about their own identity.

Salina: And for some people, that might be the scariest thing of all.

Salina: I'm going to end with a quote from Fenton Bailey, co executive producer of RuPaul's Drag Race.

Salina: To be a drag queen is to fly your freak flag, to live your life out loud, to not let other people dictate normal, or to not edit yourself so that you fit in with other people.

Salina: So it's very much a big, bold, brave statement of individuality.

Salina: Well, I've got one thing to say to that sounds pretty darn great to me.

Salina: You know the drill.

Salina: Dm us, email us, or contact us from the website and find us all over the socials.

Salina: And that's this week's Extra Sugar.


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