Drag has recently become a target of conservative leaders across the country. From drag bans to threats from white supremacy groups showing up to intimidate performers at drag brunches, drag and gender nonconformity have become a leading issue used to fire up evangelical and right-wing voters. This is far from the first time drag has been persecuted in the U.S., but after years of progress toward LGBTQ+ equality, this recent backlash has been remarkably swift and severe.
While there are lawmakers who are working to ban drag and return to a more puritanical society, there are many who are supporting drag and performers in significant ways.
Organizations including GLAAD and GLSEN teamed up with Producer Entertainment Group, Hollywood celebrities (Ali Wong, Charlize Theron and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, to name a few) and drag talent from around the country to raise awareness of the rise of anti-drag and trans bills.
Drag superstars Jinkx Monsoon, Peppermint, Laganja Estranja and Monét X Change were among the talent, answering phones and bringing in donations during the May 7 live event. Between skits, performances and testimonials, the event brought in over $500,000, which will be distributed among several LGBTQ+ nonprofits. You can still donate to the cause through its GoFundMe.
Queer artists risk legal action to support drag artists onstage
Singer/songwriters Orville Peck and Kayley Kiyoko have refused to stop including drag artists on their shows, even in states like Tennessee and Kentucky, where drag bans have been working through the legislature. Peck has acknowledged that he was nervous to do so but decided to move forward nonetheless. Peck said, “Was I scared? Yes, but I did it anyway because sometimes you just have to do something no matter what.”
An emotional Kiyoko took to Instagram to share with fans that an undercover police officer had approached her before her May 1 show at the Marathon Music Works. The officer informed Kiyoko that drag performances would not be allowed due to her show being all ages. At the time of this encounter, a federal judge had halted the drag bill, but Kiyoko was nevertheless warned against including the drag talent. When artists LiberTea and Ivy St. James arrived at the event, Kiyoko explained her encounter with law enforcement. The performers wanted to go forward, and Kiyoko told fans, “They showed no fear and said they wanted to continue with the show and come out on stage. So they did.”
Butches on Bikes offer protection to drag events and performers in Ontario, Canada.
In Parkhill, Ontario, butches on motorcycles showed up to counter anti-drag protesters at a Drag Story Hour held by Rainbow Optimists and Strathoy Pride at the Middlesex Library. The motorcycle club Wind Sisters formed a chain around the library entrance, blocking protesters from disturbing the event inside. According to Wind Sisters member Patricia Ginn, 70, told CTV News, “Historically, a butch — like myself, and I’ve been one for 50 years now — our role in the community has always been one of the great protectors.”
Ad agency Cornett is supporting drag close to home–or the office may be more accurate. In March, the agency launched “Work is a Drag,” a new policy that welcomes employees to dress in drag in the workplace. Kentucky native Scarlet Envy and queens Jennae, Kali Dupree and Uma Jewels participated in the kickoff. “Cornett is committed to being a workplace open to every race, gender, sexual preference, age and ability,” said Cornett President and owner Christy Hiler. “This policy is really just about respecting our employees’ freedom to be authentically themselves.”
In Austin, Texas this week, Dallas-based drag performers Bleach, Cassie Nova, Jenna Sky, and Rocky Tacoma flew in to speak out against SB12 which restricts “certain sexually oriented performances on public property, on the premises of a commercial enterprise, or in the presence of a child” and makes such acts a criminal offense. In addition to the drag performers, out of 400 people signed up to testify about the bill, over 300 were against it coming to fruition.