For Londenn D. Raine, drag is a means for people to escape everyday struggles.
While not all transgender people are drag artists and not all drag artists are transgender, Raine, a transgender woman in Tulsa, has been a drag queen for 22 years and has legally changed her name.
A number of measures aimed at drag shows and at gender-affirming care are moving through the Legislature this session and affect her and many more people.
House Bill 2186 would make it illegal to organize or authorize on public property a story hour for minors that is hosted by a drag performer whose performance is harmful to minors.
It would outlaw “adult cabaret” shows deemed “harmful to minors” or that “could be viewed by a minor.”
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The bill defines drag performer as “a male or female performer who adopts a flamboyant or parodic feminine or masculine persona with glamorous or exaggerated costumes and makeup.”
House Bill 2177 would ban all gender-reassignment therapies for minors but also would bar state funds or private insurers from covering anyone, including adults, for those treatments.
Senate Bill 503 would prohibit lewd acts in public. The bill describes lewd acts as “any sexual behavior imitating sex or sexual acts, groping, indecent exposure of genitalia or sexual paraphernalia, display of replicas of genitalia, sexually touching oneself or someone else, or convincing or forcing someone else to sexually touch or observe sexual behavior.”
Raine said she gets hit twice. Her hormone therapy, which is paid through private insurance, would no longer be covered, and because of interpretations of the proposed laws, some of the drag events in which she participates could be prohibited, she said.
“Everybody tries to group drag as a sexual act,” Raine said. “It is not sexual. Someone can be fully clothed head to toe and wear a gown that is fully covered, only showing the mouth and eyes. It is how you decide to pantomime your act.
“You tailor your act to your audience. Drag can be you being a Disney princess for a 4 year old. It also could be something different in an atmosphere 21 and up.”
She said drag shows are like concerts.
“We do music from other artists and pantomime those artists and perform acts and arts to the music,” she said.
Shay Brewer, a drag king who transitioned from female to male, said drag is an art form that involves costumes, makeup, wigs, characters and music styles.
Brewer said he has performed as rock singers Lenny Kravitz and Prince. But he has also performed as Cookie Monster from Sesame Street and as Fat Albert, a cartoon character.
Drag shows have raised a lot of money for worthy causes, Brewer said.
“I think it gives you a chance to release all of your emotion,” Raine added. “It is a way to express everything going on with yourself day to day and the gratification to see someone in the audience appreciate what you do. You get together and escape from everyday struggle. We get to provide that every day for people.”
She said efforts to put restrictions on drag shows are an attempt to stifle free speech.
Similar to Raine’s situation, some of the bills will hit both Brewer’s financial situation and his health. He has been using testosterone supplements for 17 years.
Brewer said he has had doctors who say they will treat him but not prescribe testosterone because it is a way of saying they don’t support him.
“You can’t just stop testosterone like that,” Brewer said. “I am going to move away or buy it black market. You don’t think about safety anymore. You are thinking about surviving in the image that you have.”
Both said those writing laws about drag shows should learn about them.
“I think before you try to make an educated guess on a bill, it is up to you to go attend a drag show and see what we do first before you decide it should go into law,” Raine said.
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