On October 15, 2022, Plano restaurant and bar Ebb & Flow hosted a drag brunch, drawing in large crowds for the show. But one attendee filmed a young girl in the audience and called the performance “perverted.”
Since that incident, countless drag shows have been protested and even threatened. Now, the Texas Senate is looking to ban and potentially criminalize the shows.
On March 23, 2023, a state Senate committee debated two bills that would heavily restrict and possibly criminalize drag performances in Texas.
According to The Dallas Morning News, state Senator Bryan Hughes presented two bills that did not explicitly say “drag;” instead, both would restrict performances in which “a male performer exhibiting as a female, or a female performer exhibiting as a male.”
Senate Bill 1601 would eliminate public funds to municipal libraries that host drag queen story times for kids. Senate Bill 12 would redefine a “sexually oriented performance” to include when men present or exhibit themselves as women, and women as men, and the performance “appeals to the prurient interest in sex.”
Senator Hughes did explicitly mention “drag” in remarks he gave in a Thursday public hearing, saying, “Drag shows are sexually explicit and expose children to issues of sexuality and identity that should be reserved for adults.”
Drag performances would be prohibited in public spaces and in front of minors, and violators could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a $4,000 fine,or both. Businesses could also face $10,000 fines.
During the hearing, several drag performers spoke to defend their work. Brigitte Bandit, a drag artist who performs for children and adults, asked if she would be subject to the bill because she was born a woman and performs as one.
“These bills discriminate against people based on sex, and not the actual content of performances,” Bandit said.
She argued that it is not fair that she continued her work but that her male counterparts, who wear similar costumes, could face jail time.
“None of us want to have children at our drag shows at the gay bar at 11 p.m. on a Friday night,” Bandit said. “But we do want to continue our events like drag story times that are intentionally modified to be appropriate for children.”
Collin County Rep. Matt Shaheen has also been vocal about drag shows in the state.
“I am committed to fighting the assault on our children and the desire to sexualize them by some extremists, that includes banning drag shows that target innocent children,” Shaheen told Local Profile.
The majority Republican committee did not vote on Thursday, but can at any future meeting. If the bills are passed, the legislation will continue to the full senate for further debate.
Local Profile reached out to Sen. Hughes for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.