LA Drag March recap by Brennen Beckwith, with additional reporting by Daniela “Dani” Capistrano
ANGELENOS SUPPORTING DRAG PERFORMERS NATIONWIDE
The LA LGBT Center held their inaugural Drag March on Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023. The purpose was to demonstrate solidarity with drag performers under attack by anti-drag and anti-LGBTQ bills across the country. I braved the traffic and parking in West Hollywood to attend the Drag March as TransLash Media’s LA-based digital producer.
The kickoff rally was held at West Hollywood Park, and the “strut” took place on Santa Monica Blvd. LA LGBT Center’s resource fair showcased dozens of LGBTQ+ organizations, including Trans Latin@ Coalition.
I admired three shrines that were dedicated to drag legends who had passed away: Crystal Woods, Heklina, and Darcelle XV. Speakers included the Mayor of West Hollywood Sepi Shyne who designated April 9th as “Drag Day.”
Attendees enjoyed performances by Kerri Kolby and Honey Davenport. The closing number featured drag performers who danced to Beyoncé’s “You Won’t Break My Soul.”
Simultaneously, the dancers held signs with slogans such as “Drag is Not A Crime,” and “F*ck My Drag, Right?” My favorite signs were “Drag Is Art,” “Trans People Are Sacred,” and “Drag Saves Lives.”
The LA LGBT Center reported that over 2500 people showed up at the march, but it felt like more. At one point, the march looped around onto itself because there were so many people marching.
WHY PROTEST ANTI-LGBTQ+ LAWS?
The LA LGBT Center held the LA Drag March on Easter Sunday as an intentional jab at the Christian Nationalists who are fueling over 400 pieces of anti-trans legislation introduced in 2023. Team TransLash unpacks their tactics in Season 2 of our limited series podcast, The Anti-Trans Hate Machine.
Tennessee Drag Ban
The Drag Ban in Tennessee is of the most violent anti-drag laws in the country. It forbids “adult cabaret entertainment” on public property or in locations where minors could be present. Adult cabaret entertainment is defined as “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, and male or female impersonators.”
Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee signed the hateful bill into law on March 2, 2023. It would have gone into effect on April 1, but it was temporarily blocked by Federal Judge Thomas Parker, who wrote:
“If Tennessee wishes to exercise its police power in restricting speech it considers obscene, it must do so within the constraints and framework of the United States Constitution.”
Texas Drag Bounty Hunter Bill
Texas is leveraging the same tactics they pulled to attempt to ban abortion in 2021; Texas State Representative Steve Toth proposed HB 4378, which places a bounty on drag performances in front of minors.
Dubbed “The Drag Bounty Hunter Bill,” this bill essentially empowers citizens to sue any establishment or person for up to $5000 in damages if they perform in clothing that is opposite of their assigned gender at birth. How would this bill apply to intersex folks? Who knows. But the bill does define all drag performances as “lascivious” acts, regardless of your gender.
Protect Trans Kids
While the drag bounty hunter bill and other anti-trans bills have yet to pass into law, hateful legislation is still negatively impacting the lives of trans people and their supporters.
In TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones episode “Trans Family Child Separation,” Imara Jones interviews Morgan Hardee Davis, a former Texas CPS Agent who quit his job after being forced to investigate trans-affirming families.
Florida Drag Ban
Things are even worse in The Sunshine State: SB 1438 is a vaguely worded drag ban that criminalizes “adult live performance.” The bill could revoke or deny event permits, liquor licenses, and even business licenses for any establishment that hosts drag performances.
Consequently, the wording of this bill effectively bans not only drag story hours, but any Pride event. Several Florida Pride Organizations have already canceled their events or age restricted them in anticipation of this bill.
As of April 19, SB1438 passed the House and Senate. It’s just waiting on Gov. Desantis’ signature.
SOLIDARITY WITH OUR LGBTQ+ SIBLINGS
GOP lawmakers are targeting drag performers in an attempt to direct moral panic and incite anti-LGBTQ+ violence.
More drag shows are going underground, trans people are fleeing their home states, and thousands are losing access to trans-affirming healthcare.
Many Californians are fortunate to have rights that all trans people deserve: trans-affirming healthcare, housing support, community resources, and employment protections. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to support our queer and trans siblings in other states to achieve the same rights.
As queer and trans people in sanctuary states, we should stand in solidarity with our trans siblings under attack—which is exactly what attendees did at the LA Drag March.
We’re fighting the #AntiTransHateMachine together.
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