Nebraska drag queens oppose proposal to ban children from drag shows

LINCOLN. Drag queens and local LGBTQ advocates flooded legislative hearings on Friday, speaking of drag queens’ joy in the face of efforts to ban minors from attending such performances.

Bill 371, proposed by State Senator Dave Moorman of Glenville, would ban minors, especially those under the age of 19, from attending drag shows. It defines drag when a performer is entertaining by displaying a gender identity that is different from the gender assigned to them at birth. Opponents expressed concern that such a definition could apply to transgender people in public life.

The amendment classifies drag shows as adult entertainment and covers education, not just singing, lip-syncing, dancing, or other entertainment performances.

Anyone who brings a child to such an event, including the child’s parents, can be charged with a first degree misdemeanor. Moorman said the charge fits the lowest penalty for child abuse, where children are placed in a situation where they are sexually manipulated or harmed without causing serious bodily injury.

A class I misdemeanor carries a fine of up to $1,000 or one year in prison.

Organizations knowingly violating the proposed law will be fined $10,000. No government agency could use public funds to stage a drag show.

“Too sexy and out of place”

Moorman said his bill is about protecting children, which is the same argument that has been used to support other laws in this session that affect LGBT Nebrascans.

“I have nothing against someone dressing up in a drag show or doing a drag show, and I love everyone,” Moorman told the Judiciary Committee. “But it’s about making sure kids don’t get involved in drag shows and aren’t exposed too early to overly sexual and inappropriate behavior.”

State Senator Carol Blood of Bellevue, a member of the committee, expressed concern that the bill would apply to other forms of entertainment such as Shakespearean plays, theater in general, or rock concerts.

“What you’re doing is picking demographic cherries,” Blood said.

State Senator Wendy DeBoer of Bennington, vice chair of the committee, questioned whether Moorman’s bill should apply to lascivious behavior in general, which is defined as “morbid, degrading, or excessive interest in sexual matters.”

She asked Moorman if he thought that anyone who behaved in this way with children should be punished.

Moorman said this is correct, although resistance may be a “contributory factor”.

He and other supporters of LB 371 have also raised concerns about people appearing as members of a different gender than the gender assigned to them at birth. Some proponents said it could “confuse” children.

One of the witnesses in support, Angie Eberspacher, said that drag shows are raising and caring for children and are the result of postmodernism and “awakening”.

“They want to initiate children into the world of homosexuality,” Eberspacher said. “They want to teach children to be transgressive towards a heteronormative society. They teach a simplified version of queer theory. This is a coordinated nationwide scheme to infiltrate and undermine children from state to state.”

“Moment of Joy”

Earlier that day, about 100 Nebraska residents, including more than 25 in clothes, stood shoulder to shoulder in the Capitol Rotunda and urged senators to treat them as human beings and equals.

OutNebraska Executive Director Abby Swatsworth hosted a midday advocacy rally for LGBTQ Nebraskans with the Nebraska ACLU. She described the rally as a “moment of joy” in a difficult week.

“The debate about your humanity, when people talk about whether you exist as a trans person, is extremely painful,” Swatsworth said. “It destabilizes people.”

The loudest applause at the rally was reserved for two artists who appear on local performances of the Drag Queen Story Hour, Polly Roxia and Babygirl Uchavi.

They performed an excerpt from Alex Willan’s story “Unicorns Are Worst” to show what’s going on in story hours, stating they want to fix what some Nebraskans read online.

Roxia said that none of the people who spoke out for the rights of transgender people should not do this – you need to understand their right to exist.

“What you saw here was not evil,” Roxya said. “It’s just queer people sharing queer hearts with queer families and kids.”

One of their hosts, Reverend Debra McKnight of Omaha City Abbey, said the books they read are “about being who you are and loving who you are.”

She and others said the amount of sarcasm that opponents send to trans advocates and allies is frustrating and in some cases leads to violence. McKnight described the death threat email she said the abbey received.

“I just want everyone … who has so much fear, rage and anger to be able to see it firsthand, because the veil will fall from their eyes,” McKnight said.

Nebraska violations

Moorman provided the committee with several references to what he said were indicative of sexual and inappropriate behavior by transvestites. Two of these connections allegedly originated in Nebraska.

In one video, according to Murman, a child can be seen undressing and dancing provocatively. On the second, he says, the transvestite brings the child to the table and encourages him to dance for money. According to Murman, this child quickly sank and clearly felt uncomfortable.

However, both events differed from Moorman’s reporting, based on a review of the Nebraska Examiner video posted on Twitter by the Libs of TikTok account.

V first video, at an Omaha event, a child dances and removes his cape, but otherwise remains fully clothed. The child then jumps up and down, swinging his arm like a windmill, before lying down on the floor.

V second video, made in Lincoln, the child is led to the table and remains standing there until the video ends after about 10 seconds. It is not clear how the child feels based on the distance they are from the camera.

Transvestites testify

Several drag queens and transgender Nebraskas testified before the Judiciary Committee, and earlier in the day a line of witnesses stretched across the Capitol’s lower first floor to the dining hall.

They shared how drag and drop helped them discover themselves and find a community.

Allia Hopkins, who plays JaJa Adore, described drag and drop as an exchange of energy.

“In many ways, it saved more lives than it harmed,” Hopkins said.

Jacob Thomsen, who portrays Jackie O. Kennedy, said that Moorman’s proposal suggests that drag performers cannot tailor their shows to their target audience.

“I believe that this body has made a serious mistake by introducing this bill, and I implore all of you to make a choice and not let it go any further,” Thomsen said.

Many opponents have noted that drag performances can become obscene, but performers try not to do this in front of children. As DeBoer told Murman, any performer who violates these principles can be held accountable.

“Trance Joy is Revolutionary”

On Thursday, lawmakers voted to pass LB 574, which would restrict minors’ access to some gender-affirming services in the state.

A small group of protesters gathered outside the Capitol during Friday’s rally. One of them held a sign thanking the 33 senators who voted to close LB 574, allowing them to advance to the first round.

Several witnesses joined the witnesses in support of LB 371, arguing that children are not allowed to attend drag shows or drag story hours, despite their parents’ willingness to invite them.

ACLU Nebraska Legal and Policy Adviser Jane Seu said at a rally Friday that Nebraska taxpayers, like taxpayers in Arkansas, where a law similar to LB 574 was held up in court, face costly defenses if laws like LB 574 and LB 371 go into law.

Seu said both bills appear to be unconstitutional. According to her, the former discriminates on the basis of sex, while LB 371 violates First Amendment rights.

“Significant resources are required to protect an unconstitutional law,” Seu said.

Although Seu has refrained from promising lawsuits, she said the ACLU has already spoken to potential litigants who are lining up to defend their personal rights.

State Senator Machaela Kavanaugh of Omaha, who has led filibusters against LB 574 and other anti-LGBTQ Nebrascan bills, vowed at Friday’s rally to keep fighting.

“I’m grateful… to all of you who continue to show up and be yourself,” said Kavanaugh, who said she was humbled by their support. “I will fight for another 40 days [of the session]”.

Sootsworth and other advocates have said they will continue to push for the rights of transgender people.

“Trance Joy is a revolution,” Swatsworth said. “Queer joy is revolutionary. We plan to make the revolution joyful.”

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