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Drag queens latest targets in US culture wars

WASHINGTON — It’s the latest battleground in America’s rolling “culture wars” over gender and education: Conservatives across the country are turning their attention to drag shows — attacking them as a threat to public decency and family values.

The fight plays out in an endless loop on conservative TV chat shows, on the legislative front, with several states seizing on Republican bills aimed at curbing drag events — and sometimes violent protests.

At the heart of the debate are children’s events called “Drag Queen Story Hour,” which since their inception in San Francisco in 2015 have spread across the country to encourage both reading and diversity.

The concept of public storytelling events for young readers is tried and true, but the catch here is that the storytellers are mostly male drag artists who flaunt a feminine aesthetic in extravagant costumes and wigs, high-heeled stilettos, and a profusion of makeup .

The idea hardly comes as a shock in a country where drag has surged from niche nightlife spots into the cultural mainstream – thanks in particular to its high-profile presence on hit television show RuPaul’s Drag Race.

But that doesn’t stop part of the right from portraying “Drag Queen Story Hour” as a national nightmare: progressive activism gone wild at best and a sexually charged threat to “child innocence” at worst.

This uncompromising view is about to become law. Last week, Tennessee lawmakers passed a controversial law that would severely restrict drag performances in public places or in front of children.

State Senator Jack Johnson, who sponsored the legislation, says its sole purpose is to “protect” American youth.

“There are certain performances, films and places that are unsuitable for children,” he said in a statement.

If the governor signs the law into law, it will be the first such Republican restriction against drag shows to become law — but likely not the last.

Elected officials have proposed similar legislation in more than a dozen states — including Texas, Kansas and Arizona.

– ‘Love the Fabulous’ –

Blaine Conzatti, who helped draft an anti-drag queen law in Idaho that was introduced Monday, said he believes these shows are undoubtedly “sexual in nature.”

They fall into the same category as “strip clubs” and “pornography,” Conzatti, president of the Christian group Idaho Family Policy Center, told AFP.

Conzatti is aware that he is part of a burgeoning national movement that came together as drag events grew in popularity.

“Ten years ago, no parent could have imagined watching public drag shows with kids,” Conzatti said. “I mean, that would have been unthinkable.”

Drag participants and LGBTQ activists reject the ultra-sexualized image associated with the art form.

Jonathan Hamilt, executive director of Drag Queen Story Hour, acknowledges that while drag “has its roots in queer nightlife,” there are “many layers” for different age groups.

Hamilt – herself a drag queen named Ona Louise – was the first to attend readings in New York City.

“When I’m in drag, I feel more outgoing, I feel funnier, I feel braver,” he told AFP, noting that his theatrics work “to enhance the story.”

And the children? “Kids love the fabulousness and over-the-top nature of Drag’s big hair, sequins and glitter,” he said.

Hamilt also sees an underlying anti-LGBTQ movement behind the restrictive bills. For example, he fears that transgender people whose physical appearance doesn’t match the gender on their identity documents will be targeted as drag queens.

– insults, threats –

Opposition to drag shows has sometimes taken violent turns.

According to the GLAAD rights organization, there were 141 incidents of anti-LGBTQ protests and threats at drag events last year.

The far-right Proud Boys group regularly interferes in these events, sending armed protesters to intimidate onlookers, as they did in Ohio in December.

According to media reports, in mid-February members of the group used homophobic slurs at parents who entered a library in a suburb of Washington.

Similar scenes are repeated in New York, San Francisco and Texas. In response, counter-demonstrations are becoming more frequent.

Last weekend in Washington, protesters with rainbow umbrellas stood in front of a library entrance, forming a motley phalanx protecting attendees who came to hear the drag queens.

Equipped with loudspeakers, they played Disney hits from “The Lion King” and “Encanto” to emphasize that these events – political as they are – are primarily aimed at children.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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