Don't miss the special, extra-length issue of In These Times devoted entirely to the subject of socialism in America today. This special issue is available now. Order your copy today for just $5.00, shipping included.
More than a thousand Chicagoans of all ages, genders and sexualities packed tightly into the Metro for its sold-out “Chicago Loves Drag!” show on April 14. The balconies overflowed with people dressed in exuberant color, eagerly peering over one another to get a view of the night’s 41 performers. Drag kings and queens made the room their own, claiming the audience’s full attention with lip syncs, comedy acts and dance routines, a radiant variety show highlighting the broad — and liberatory — entertainment that drag offers. Proceeds benefited the work of LGBTQ organizations in Chicago and Tennessee, including the Trans Formations Project, Life Is Work, ACLU of Tennessee and the Tennessee Equality Project.
Tennessee has become ground zero for the nationwide surge in legislating away drag performance and gender-affirming care; the state’s drag ban was the first in the nation to be signed into law. Similar draconian measures are currently in legislatures across the country, which often define drag in terms so broad and vague that they limit communities far beyond drag. Critics of Tennessee’s ban, and of similar bills in other states, have been careful to note how the legislation leaves the legal status of trans people unresolved. Under Tennessee’s ban, any “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, or similar entertainers, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration” could be arrested, fined or imprisoned, based upon the judgment of any individual cop.
Many of the proposed bills also roll back access to gender-affirming care for minors. Missouri’s attorney general, Andrew Bailey, restricted gender affirming care for trans adults on April 13. The Missouri restrictions are the first of their kind in targeting trans adults.
Both of Tennessee’s bans, as well as Missouri’s restrictions, are being challenged in federal court, while drag artists and their allies continue to blare fierce resistance to the bigoted legislation.
On one of drag’s biggest stages — the TV series RuPaul’s Drag Race—newly crowned queen Sasha Colby dedicated her victory to “every trans person, past, present and future.” Holding a glittery scepter and sporting a dazzling pink two-piece, Colby added on the show’s season 15 finale (which aired April 14): “[trans people] are not going anywhere.”
On April 21, on the ground in Knoxville, Tenn., Grammy Award-winning artist Lizzo filled her stage with several drag performers, inviting them to join her in a vibrant, lyric-filled protest. “I was told by people on the internet, ‘Cancel your shows in Tennessee. Don’t go to Tennessee,’” the “About Damn Time” singer said. “But why would I not come to the people who need to hear this message the most?”
The stadium full of Tennesseans erupted into cheers, their shouts serving as their protest song. Joining the chorus in righteous uproar from another time and place, Chicago’s queer community at the Metro was howling and hollering, tossing snaps and dollar bills toward the stage, making it clear that transphobia will not stand and that the movement is strong. As the show’s title suggests: Chicago truly does love drag.
Don't miss your chance to win! Get your raffle tickets today for Saturday's raffle, with a chance to win a vacation for two to Cascais, Portugal!
One lucky raffle winner will receive a $3,000 gift card to cover the costs of two flights, as well as a stay in a 5-star boutique hotel, housed in a 17th century fortress with medieval architecture and décor. You can schedule the trip on your timeline!
All raffle ticket sales support ongoing In These Times reporting, just like the article you just finished reading. Get your raffle tickets now.
The winner will be selected on the night of September 30, at the In These Times 47th Anniversary Celebration. You do not need to be present at the drawing to win.
Henry Hicks IV is a Washington D.C.-based writer and organizer. Originally from Nashville, Tenn., he is a graduate of Oberlin College and is a Harry S. Truman scholar.