Texas Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Greenville) has fired the latest volley in the transphobic conservative culture war. Following an all-ages drag event in Dallas over the weekend, he plans to introduce legislation banning minors from attending any drag performance.
“The events of this past weekend were horrifying and show a disturbing trend in which perverted adults are obsessed with sexualizing young children,” said Slaton in a prepared statement. “As a father of two young children, I would never take my children to a drag show, and I know Speaker Dade Phelan and the rest of my Republican colleagues wouldn’t either. Protecting our own children isn’t enough, and our responsibility as lawmakers extends to the sexualization that is happening across Texas.”
The event in question happened lunchtime at the Mr. Misster bar on Cedar Springs Road. The organizers intended it as a family-friendly spin-off of their usual Drag Champagne Brunch, with modifications to make it all-age. Kids interacted with the dancers and performers, including handing them dollar bills.
Video of the event spread thanks to a coordinated protest and videos from noted right-wing troll Andy Ngo.
Ngo, sometimes called the "most dangerous grifter in America,"
and who has a long history of posing as a journalist during protests, but has been caught on several occasions appearing to collaborate with extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer
. Mr. Misster also had a negative opinion on the protests.
“Mr. Misster is a place where everyone is welcome to feel accepted, safe and included,” they said in a statement. “We had a group of protestors outside yelling homophobic threats, transphobic remarks and vile accusations at these children and parents. It is so sad to see that in 2022, there are people that still want to protest others celebrating who they are, but our staff and wonderful officers helped keep us safe and kept the protestors at bay.”
Some of the protesters held signs accusing the bar of “grooming.” This has become a favorite phrase on the far right. This avenue of attack was started last summer by Christopher Rufo
, a right-wing think tank employee who is also largely responsible for launch the anti-“critical race theory” backlash. It’s anti-LGBT messaging builds off the QAnon conspiracy of liberals and leftists as Satanic pedophiles using children in blood-drinking rituals. Transphobic rhetoric has been used as an in-road by anti-LGBT groups since 2012 as a way to push back against gender-sex minority rights once gays, lesbians, and bisexuals had achieved more mainstream acceptance.
“[Organizations like Human Rights Campaign] normalization of gays and lesbians had the unwitting effect of rendering transgender individuals more visible to religious conservatives, creating a space for opposition, retrenchment, and regression,” reads a paper by Marie-Amelie George in the Wisconsin Law Review
. “Indeed, recent attacks on transgender rights seem to be as much a function of the displacement of gays and lesbians as a viable political target as they are a parallel rhetoric, and one that the assimilationist strategy seems to have made more feasible. The recent repeal of sexual orientation protections at the ballot box, which LGBT rights opponents have attained through anti-transgender rhetoric, capitalizes on national LGBT rights organizations’ tactical choices. Their decision to follow an assimilationist strategy was a response to legal precedent and social realities, which constrained what arguments lawyers could put forward. However, these groups’ marginalization of transgender rights is now proving detrimental to everyone under the LGBT umbrella.”
It has long been an anti-LGBT tactic to portray any discussion of sexual orientation or gender presentation to children as inherently sexual in nature, painting LGBT people and their supporters as aspiring pedophiles. This has never had any basis in fact, and according to the American Psychological Association
, there has never been a shred of evidence that LGBT people are pedophiles in higher numbers than the general population. Since the days of Anita Bryant, acknowledging that LGBT people exist has been portrayed by bigots as pushing pornography on children.
Drag performances have been thoroughly mainstream for more than a decade now. Drag Race is a worldwide franchise in its fifth season that has fans of all ages. Drag queen story hours have been common in public libraries for years now, and events like Mr. Misster’s all-ages brunch are becoming more common, and many Texas parents love them.
“My kids are adults now, so drag story time wasn’t a thing when they were that age, but as littles they saw countless performances,” says Houston mom Mandy Trichell. “They grew up with drag just being a presence in their lives.”
“There used to be a restaurant in [New Orleans] we would take them to that was run by drag queens, Lucky Chang’s,” says Houston photographer Laura Corley Burton. “They did performances and talked to them. They would chat with the kids and hold them in their laps. Kids loved it! Thought they were glamorous fairy princesses.”
“Just like humans, all kids are different,” says Houston mom Alma Larsson-Gordillo. “My kids love the shows. They throw money and compliments and have had a blast. I would hate to have them banned because I absolutely think that it is important to kids to see the beautiful art that drag shows are. But for the protection of the performers, I would understand it.”
There are no specifics yet on what Slaton’s bill would look like, but it’s probable that any event involving drag queens would prohibit minors, including public library drag queen story hours. The Texas Republican-led government has been aggressively transphobic over the past year, having made it illegal for trans kids to play sports and making the Department of Public Safety investigate gender-affirming care as child abuse. Slaton’s proposed law, built off the reactionary social media presence of a known right-wing troll like Ngo, would not be out of place in the current anti-trans environment of the Lone Star State, no matter how transparently ignorant it is.