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APAP releases statement on Defending Drag Performance

Parasol Patrol
Photo by Katie Mettler for the Washington Post
On Friday, one day after Tennessee became the first state to pass a law that restricts drag performance, APAP President and CEO Lisa Richards Toney sent the following message to the APAP membership.

"Last weekend, here in Washington, DC, children and their parents turned out in sizable numbers for the popular Drag Story Hour hosted at a local restaurant south of Capitol Hill. There to form a symbolic wall of protection, a "Parasol Patrol", against potential attacks by hate groups, were dozens of supporters with rainbow umbrellas and bolstered by police.

Just a week earlier, the extremist group Proud Boys had targeted a similar event just across the DC border. This---and events like it nationwide---is the latest front line of America's Culture War. As a new form of transgender hate spreads across the country, the safety of drag artists and those who support drag-themed events are at risk.

Drag performers are at risk.
The LGBTQIA2S+ Community is at risk.
Free expression is at risk.
The performing arts are at risk.


Meanwhile, legitimizing these hateful acts, state legislatures across the U.S. are passing anti-drag bills that strike at the core of free speech and expression and that criminalize drag as an art form. These bills seek to ban children and young people from drag performances, block shows from public venues, and force locales that host drag events to register as "adult-oriented businesses".

According to the ACLU, at least 34 anti-drag bills have been introduced in 16 states. On Monday, Arkansas passed a law from which the explicit reference to drag had been removed, but that still leaves performers vulnerable. Just yesterday, Tennessee governor Bill Lee signed the first anti-drag bill into law.

In the article "Laws Restricting Drag Shows Should Scare Everyone Who Believes In Free Expression", PEN America flagged the most common restrictions being codified:
Equality Federation Drag Performance legislation map
You can track the status of bills in this dynamic map from the Equality Federation and the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Because we care about our people.

First and foremost, this matters because we are professionals who support our colleagues in the LGBTQIA2S+ community, and these bills hit at the heart of gender expression and existence. These actions seek to erase transgender people. Full stop.

Because these bills are based on fear and lies.

Drag performance is being inaccurately portrayed as dangerous to our children, when events like Drag Story Hour are positive ways to promote acceptance and inclusion.

Because these bills are far-reaching and anti-art.

In addition to criminalizing drag, this legislation places dangerous limitations on the performing arts. Such laws would impact productions like Kinky Boots and Hairspray, a number of Shakespeare's works that use gender play, and shows like Peter Pan that often cast women as male characters.

By these legal standards, some of the most celebrated artists in history---Tom Hanks, Tyler Perry, Robin Williams, Marlene Dietrich, David Bowie, Annie Lennox, and Prince---would have faced legal scrutiny.

Because these bills restrict our rights as performing arts professionals and as citizens.

Any infringement on our First Amendment rights is a dangerous precedent. The attacks on drag performers go to the core of our rights to gather and perform together. All artists and arts workers have a constitutionally guaranteed right to free expression."


APAP is in conversation with our advocacy partners on this issue and will keep you informed of further coordinated action.

We are stronger together. 

Lisa Richards Toney
President and CEO, APAP
To download a PDF on Anti-Drag Legislation Facts and Defending Drag Talking Points, click here.
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