Conservative Texas Lawmaker Mulls Bill That Would Ban Family-Friendly Drag Shows

State Rep. Bryan Slaton doesn't want kids going to drag shows.
State Rep. Bryan Slaton doesn't want kids going to drag shows. Benson Kua
Oak Lawn gay bar Mr. Misster invited parents and their kids to attend a family-friendly drag show on Saturday, drawing angry protesters and sparking outrage on social media. Now, a Texas Republican lawmaker wants to close the doors on all-ages drag events.

On Monday, Royse City state Rep. Bryan Slaton tweeted that he’ll file a bill next session to ban drag shows from being held in the presence of minors.

“The events of this past weekend were horrifying and show a disturbing trend in which perverted adults are obsessed with sexualizing young children,” Slaton said in a statement.

“As a father of two young children, I would never take my children to a drag show and I know … the rest of my Republican colleagues wouldn’t either,” he continued. “Protecting our own children isn’t enough, and our responsibility as lawmakers extends to the sexualization that is happening across Texas.”
LGBTQ+ advocates have been sounding the alarm in Texas and beyond that their right to exist is under attack. But conservatives nationwide are applauding Slaton and have already considered copying the move.

Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini tweeted that his state “MUST follow Texas’ lead & BAN this sick act — sex shows are no place for kids.” Colorado U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert also weighed in, saying kids should be taken “to CHURCH, not drag bars.”

Other battles in Texas’ broader culture war include the directive to launch child-abuse investigations into parents whose transgender kids receive gender-affirming care. Another Texas law dictates that young athletes must play on the sports team that aligns with the sex recorded on their birth certificate.

Liberals were quick to condemn Slaton on social media over what they view as a bigoted bill. One such group, Progress Texas, called for lawmakers to focus on solving gun violence in the wake of last month’s Uvalde school shooting, which left 19 children and two educators dead.

“Gunmen are murdering kids and teachers in schools w/ weapons of war, but TX Republicans are wasting time on this nonsense,” Progress Texas wrote in a tweet. “The GOP strategy is to distract and redirect with hate. Don't fall for this BS. Where's the legislation to address gun violence, Rep. Slaton?”

“Queer people existing is not hurting anybody.” – Adri Perez, ACLU of Texas

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But Jason Vaughn, president of Houston Young Republicans, noted that independent committees were created to address those issues, and that Slaton doesn’t serve on the House’s committee.

Vaughn, who is gay, argued that the things seen at Mr. Misster’s event were “clearly very sexualized” and inappropriate for children. Video footage showed a neon pink sign declaring “IT'S NOT GONNA LICK ITSELF” and kids interacted with performers in fairly revealing outfits, he said.

Vaughn thinks it’ll be interesting to see the definitions outlined in the bill. For decades, family-friendly entertainment has depicted biological men dressed as women for comedic effect, from Bugs Bunny to Mrs. Doubtfire.

“There's things where you've got people in what we would call ‘drag,’ dressed as a girl, that are not sexualized, and they have been in family entertainment,” he said. “But drag culture, drag shows in gay bars, specifically, is not the same. That is typically sexualized.”

Yet Adri Perez, policy and advocacy strategist for ACLU of Texas, sees it differently. Slaton is yet another far-right politician attempting to get his name in the news, they said, and it's disappointing to see Texas legislators focused on non-issues regarding the queer community.

For two years, Republicans touted “parents’ choice” on issues like wearing masks amid the pandemic and what library books are available in schools, they said. Parents may also choose to bring their kid with them to a family-friendly drag show and other all-ages events “centered in community-building around queer people.”

It’s not a legislator’s role to limit the freedoms of speech and expression for those with whom they disagree, Perez said. Conservatives are attempting to distract from the fact they’ve done nothing to address the failing power grid and other statewide crises.

“Queer people existing is not hurting anybody,” they said.

Texas has long been “openly hostile” toward the LGBTQ+ community, but Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez notes that for nearly a century, drag shows have provided safe spaces. Still, those spaces are fragile and can sometimes come under attack, as seen during the June 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, which killed 49 people.

Even anti-LGBTQ+ bills that don’t become law can have real effects, Martinez said. The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ youth support organization, has seen crisis calls from Texas spike to a monthly average of more than 2,000.

“Kids at school are bullied for being openly trans or openly gay,” he said. “Bullies don’t belong in the classroom, and they don’t belong in government.”
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter