Texas drag queen challenges drag ban bill in dress bearing names of mass shooting victims

Texas drag queen Brigitte Bandit at the state capitol in a dress bearing the names of mass shooting victims in Allen and Ulvade

A Texas drag queen has given a powerful testimony against a drag ban bill currently making its way through the state legislature.

SB12, lodged by Republican state senator Bryan Hughes, aims to restrict “certain sexually oriented performances” from public spaces and in the presence of children.

Those who allow these performances on commercial properties could face a fine of $10,000 (approximately £8,000), while public areas, such as libraries, could be stripped of state funding.

According to the wording of the bill, “sexually oriented performances” include “a male performer exhibiting as a female, or a female performer exhibiting as a male, who uses clothing, makeup or other similar physical markers, and who sings, lip syncs, dances or otherwise performs before an audience”.

It has already passed through the Texas State Senate and is currently before the state House of Representatives – both of which are Republican controlled.

At a public hearing before the House’s state affairs committee on Wednesday (10 May), Austin-based drag queen Brigitte Bandit said she had “never had anyone express concern of me working with children until recently” and declared that those who claim she threatens the safety of children had no evidence.

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Bandit claimed that photos from an outdoor, daytime story hour she hosted were edited to look as if they were in “a dark nightclub” and used in a television advert by anti-LGBTQ+ group, Texas Family Project, in support of the proposed legislation.

“This bill is symbolic of the deceitful and dangerous blatant lies of these hate groups,” she added.

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Bandit said she understood that “there may be legitimate cases of concerning events or people, as within any group, but it should not be used to target that group in its entirety unless it proves to be a common issue”.

She went on: “If all drag entertainment were inappropriate for children, why would these people have to edit images together to push this narrative?”

Bandit highlighted that “neo-Nazis waving flags with swastikas on them” turned up to protest against an all-ages event on Saturday – the same day a gunman, reportedly linked to neo-Nazi ideology, murdered eight people and injured seven more in a shopping centre in Allen, Texas.

“You stand with … these hate groups, and violence – real violence that is actually threatening our Texas children,” she said to the lawmakers. “I urge you to do better.”

While testifying, Bandit wore a dress bearing the Texas flag and the names of the Allen mass shooting victims, as well as victims of last year’s Uvalde elementary school massacre – also in Texas.

In addition to the advert Bandit mentioned, the Texas Family Project made a public call for people to testify in support of the bill in person or online, and to contact members of the state affairs committee.

Senator Hughes also introduced Texas’ strict abortion ban legislation. In 2021, he proposed laws to limit voting rights after the 2020 presidential election, seemingly in support of fellow Republican, Donald Trump, who refused to concede defeat to Joe Biden.

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