Laws banning drag performances have been introduced in legislative sessions in at least 14 states this year, and their potential effects are much more far-reaching than entertaining shows. An alarming number of anti-LGBTQ+, particularly anti-transgender bills continue to be introduced by states. The ACLU is tracking 278 of them across 33 states. While many target bathrooms, IDs, books, healthcare, education, and sports, a newer trend this year is attempting to ban drag.
The most broadly written bills, like Tennessee’s House Bill 9 and North Dakota’s House Bill 1333, ban drag from being performed on any public property, which would mean drag would not be permitted at Pride events. It could also theoretically mean that a transgender person dressing in clothing matching their gender identity but not their sex assigned at birth could be arrested if they did anything constituting a performance, such as lip-syncing to a song they were listening to.
In Tennessee and North Dakota, a first offense carries a penalty of up to nearly one year in prison, a fine of $2,500 to $3,000, or both. A second offense would be a felony and could carry a penalty of up to five to six years in prison and additional fines.