Everyone’s least favourite Republican Ron DeSantis goes after Christmas drag show with sex probe

Florida governor Ron DeSantis, wearing a suit and tie, stands in front of the red and white stripes of the US flag

Florida governor Ron DeSantis is investigating a holiday-themed drag show that he claims exposed kids to so-called “sexually explicit activity”. 

The state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) said it received “multiple complaints” alleging a 26 December performance of A Drag Queen Christmas was “sexually explicit” and “marketed to children”. 

A Drag Queen Christmas is a tour featuring alumni of RuPaul’s Drag Race and has been going strong for several years now. According to the tour’s website, this year’s performance is hosted by Nina West and Trinity the Tuck. 

The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, where the show was held, explained admission to A Drag Queen Christmas on 26 December was limited to guests aged 18 years or older, unless accompanied by a parent.

They said patrons were informed about the content of the show and adult themes in a message sent via email in advance, as is the policy before most shows hosted by the Broward Center. 

Bryan Griffin, a press secretary for DeSantis, released a statement on social media that DBPR is investigating the Fort Lauderdale performance. 

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“The department is actively investigating this matter, including video footage and photographs from the event,” the statement read. “DBPR will, like in other cases, take action.”

It stated exposing children to “sexually explicit activity” – right-wingers have used rhetoric claiming drag performances are inherently sexual to lambast family-friendly shows – is a crime in Florida.

If the venue is found to have violated the DBPR’s licensing standards, it could have its business and liquor licences revoked, the statement added. The investigation could also be referred to Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement for “potential criminal liability”. 

The Broward Center for the Performing Arts told the Hill it had not been contacted by state officials as of late Wednesday (27 December) afternoon. 

A letter from the Ron DeSantis administration was sent to the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation – the penultimate stop on A Drag Queen Christmas tour – dated 28 December.

Ron DeSantis, wearing a suit and tie, gestures with both hands in the air as he speaks into a microphone at an event
Ron DeSantis has a long history of espousing anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and policies. (Getty)

DBPR secretary Melanie Griffin warned the venue operators in the letter, shared by The Florida Standard on Twitter, that minors should be banned from the upcoming performance.

“The department has reason to believe that this drag show is of a sexual nature, involving the exposure or exhibition of sexual organs, similar sexual activity, and/or the sexualization of children’s stories,” the letter read. “The department has become aware that drag shows by Drag Fans have been marketed to and attended by minors, including young children.”

This specific drag show has been taking place for eight years — and no harm has been caused.

Anna Eskamani

Democratic representative Anna Eskamani slammed the department for going ahead with the investigation and accused it of “pursuing a homophobic agenda in targeting drag shows”, Florida Politics reported.  

“DBPR could spend their time cracking down on human trafficking taking place in Florida hotel rooms,” Eskamani said. “Instead they’re pursuing a homophobic agenda in targeting drag shows.”

She continued: “It’s a waste of money, time and an attempt to create political outrage when none has existed before. 

“In fact, this specific drag show has been taking place for eight years — and no harm has been caused.”

DBPR’s investigation is the latest in a series of steps taken by Republican lawmakers, including Ron DeSantis, to crack down on drag performances accused of being inappropriate for young audiences. 

Demonstrators gather in support of a drag event after anti-LGBTQ+ protestors targeted the event
LGBTQ+ advocates and allies have spoken out against the rising number of right-wing attacks on drag events. (Getty)

These crackdowns have coincided with violent protests and other attacks on drag shows. A recent report revealed there have been over 124 anti-drag attacks in the US in the past year, as of 21 November. 

The analysis, conducted by GLAAD, found “increasingly violent rhetoric” fueled the incidents and stated “extremist” politicians pointed to local drag events as “motivation for new legislation that would ban public drag performances”. 

It specifically name-dropped DeSantis for being complicit in this activity after he “filed a legal complaint against a Miami restaurant alleging disorderly conduct after Libs of TikTok posted a video of a drag performance there”. 

Ron DeSantis has a track record of anti-LGBTQ+ comments and initiatives

In March, Ron DeSantis signed Florida’s reviled ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill into law, inspiring copycat bills to pop up in other states barring classroom discussions on LGBTQ+ topics. 

He also approved legislation banning trans athletes from participating in school sports and spoke out against trans swimmer Lia Thomas’ historic win in March. 

DeSantis called for doctors and medical professionals who perform gender-affirming surgery on trans youth to be sued. The Republican used anti-trans rhetoric in ballot mailers to drum up votes ahead of the midterm elections in November. 

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