Chilling Texas bill seeks to criminalise drag shows and ‘eliminate trans people out of public life’

A person holds up a sign, designed in the colours of the trans Pride flag, that reads 'not safe to be me'

Texas has introduced an anti-drag bill that would criminalise venues for hosting trans performers or drag shows, essentially banning “trans people from performing in any capacity”.

Brought forward by Texas representative Jared Patterson, the House Bill 643 was introduced on Monday (14 November) and it aims to prevent most drag performances from taking place.

Under the bill, such drag shows are defined as “a performance in which a performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers and sings, lip syncs, dances or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment”.

It also states holding drag performances renders a venue a “sexually oriented business”.

Currently, under Texas law, businesses that host trans performers and also admit minors in any capacity – even they don’t attend a show that features trans or drag performers – can be charged with a Class A misdemeanour. 

Texas defines a minor as someone under 18 who is not and has not been married. If found guilty there is a maximum fine of $4,000 and up to one year in jail. 

Texas drag bill seeks to ‘eliminate trans people out of public life’

Opposing the bill is Harvard Law clinician Alejandra Caraballo who said the law is “one of the most radical bills I have ever seen that seeks to completely eliminate trans people out of public life by defining drag to encompass trans people and then criminalising it”.

In a tweet Caraballo branded the bill as “a literal ban on trans people performing in any capacity”.

Craballo wrote: “The bill defines drag as essentially any trans person performing at all… They define drag as anyone with a differing gender identity than their gender assigned at birth performing. That’s the literal definition of trans people. 

“Having a trans person perform at all by singing, dancing or performing renders a venue a ‘sexually oriented business’.”

Caraballo’s tweet has gained thousands of likes, retweets and quote tweets with one commenter writing “this legislation is pure evil”.  

Another user wrote: “Well, there goes a whole lot of Broadway shows where characters just happen is be dressed as the other sex ‘for reasons’, classic movies and hell, even old cartoons (Bugs, for one).”

Earlier this year Texas Republican lawmaker Bryan Slaton vowed to introduce a statewide ban to prevent kids from attending drag shows. 

A federal judge in Texas also ruled that discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in healthcare is perfectly legal.