A drag performer in Texas was forcibly removed from a public hearing on anti-drag legislation by security on Wednesday. The Texas House of Representatives State Affairs committee held the hearing on S.B. 12, a bill that would prohibit children from participating in “sexually oriented performance,” which includes drag performances. If the bill is passed, drag artists who perform in front of minors or on public property may face criminal charges, and facilities that sponsor drag shows might face fines of up to $10,000.
Brigitte Bandit, an Austin drag performer, was one of over 400 people who testified before the committee. She spoke in a clothing with the names of the victims of the Uvalde and Allen mass shootings, arguing that gun violence is the real threat to the state’s youth. She was reportedly hauled out of the court by security after speaking for 15 seconds more than her permitted time. Despite the incident, Bandit took to Instagram to say, “I said what needed to be said. Decorum, be damned, while our children are dying.”
Bandit has been a vocal opponent of S.B. 12 and another related measure, S.B. 1601. She identifies as nonbinary and uses she/they pronouns. In March, she spoke before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs, where she argued that the bills discriminated against women and incorrectly focused on the sex and gender of performers rather than the content of their performances.
Bandit noted that drag is simply a form of art that can be produced by many different kinds of people and modified for different audiences. She also pointed out that existing regulations already prohibit minors from attending adult-oriented events at places such as homosexual bars. She questioned why she should be able to continue performing similar events with similar content and costumes, but not her male counterparts.
The majority of people who testified at the hearing opposed the bills. Supporters of the bills argue that they are necessary to protect children from inappropriate content. Opponents argue that they are an attack on LGBTQ+ rights and an attempt to censor artistic expression.
If the bills become law, it could have a significant impact on the drag community in Texas. Many drag artists perform in bars and nightclubs that are open to the public, and if these venues are considered public property, they could face fines for sponsoring drag shows. Additionally, many drag artists perform for charity events and fundraisers that involve minors, and they could face criminal charges for doing so.
The fate of S.B. 12 and S.B. 1601 is still uncertain. However, the incident involving Brigitte Bandit underscores the passion and emotions involved in this debate. Regardless of the outcome, it is clear that the drag community in Texas and beyond will continue to fight for their rights and the right to express themselves through their art.