The Right is screaming about drag shows this week, clutching their pearls over the comedic art form because it supposedly “sexualizes” children. Elected officials in Texas and Florida are reaching for their smelling salts over a family-friendly drag show hosted off hours last weekend at a Dallas gay bar.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has called for child abuse investigations of parents who take their kids to see drag queens, because … well, he can’t really say, but if the facts aren’t helpful, he can always have his press secretary lie for him.
See the photo up on the left?
That’s Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’s press secretary, evidently well suited for her job because she never met a lie she couldn’t spread with shameless chutzpah. She’s the woman who re-popularized the lie that LGBTQ people “groom” children for sexual abuse, a tactic Americans thought died out with scaremongering orange juice spokesmodel Anita Bryant back in the 1970s.
So what’s going on this time?
Yesterday, LGBTQ Nation reporter John Russell emailed Pushaw and asked for comment on Gov. DeSantis’s call for CPS to investigate parents who take kids to family-friendly drag shows like in Dallas.
The governor said, “You have these very young kids, and they must have been like 9, 10 years old, at a quote, ‘drag show,’ where they were putting money in the underwear of this…and that is totally inappropriate.’
My question: What event is Gov. DeSantis referring to? Has he seen 9- and 10-year olds placing money in the underwear of drag performers? Where specifically has he seen this?
I don’t know what Pushaw thought when she saw Russell’s query, but in her shoes, I would have felt trapped. The Dallas event the governor spoke of featured no underwear-clad drag queens and no stripping. No video footage shows kids stuffing money into the clothing of drag queens, for good reason — the kid-friendly-event organizers were sensitive to potential misrepresentation and announced a set of rules before the show started that included “no touching the performers.” This applied to adults and children alike.
The facts didn’t stop Pushaw
“Unfortunately for churnalists, people have eyes,” she tweeted publicly, with a copy of the LGBTQ Nation question on the left and a photo of a nearly naked woman on the right, with a little girl stuffing money into what looks like the woman’s gold lamé bikini bottom.
I don’t know about you, but if I saw that tweet, I’d presume it was a photo of the Dallas event, or at least a photo of a drag queen with a child.
But, no. Pushaw was lying. Baldly, knowingly, and for political gain. She manipulated a photo of a straight woman at a burlesque (strip) show and tweeted it out as if the woman were a drag queen.
Then Pushaw got caught, almost immediately
Queer legal analyst Alejandra Caraballo, a Harvard Law faculty member with bylines in Slate, Teen Vogue and Wired, spotted the press secretary’s lie almost instantly. Pushaw tweeted the photo yesterday at 5:13 pm eastern time. Caraballo debunked her at 5:31:
This was pulled from a widely circulated nazi meme 3 years ago of a facebook post from burlesque dancer who is a cis woman. This was not drag, nor did it happen in dallas. Care to comment why you’re resharing nazi disinformation and propaganda?
Caraballo included a screenshot of the Facebook meme as evidence. I found the original meme this morning, independently, with little difficulty, using Google photo search functions, which I can only imagine is how Pushaw found it.
But she must have seen the context when she did. She had to know the photo is not of the Dallas event and has nothing to do with drag queens. She tweeted it anyway, because smearing LGBTQ people is more important to her and her politically ambitious boss than being honest and thoughtful.
As of the time of this writing, Pushaw has neither deleted her dishonest tweet nor replied to Caraballo.
Some say Ron DeSantis is a smarter, more dangerous version of former President Donald Trump. Is Christina Pushaw as big a shameless liar as Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
Going by this episode and the whole “groomer” debacle, I suggest Pushaw is more shameless. You decide, but this is how it works, isn’t it? This is what the Right does today. They know if they lie shameless, loudly, and often enough, their supporters will believe them.
And right now, lying about LGBTQ people makes political bank for Republican pols.
Let’s talk about drag art for a minute, because truth matters
Drag is an art form with roots going back hundreds of years. Even though Ru Paul’s Drag Race has achieved a degree of popularity, many people seem not to know what drag is or seem to misunderstand what it means to queer people.
Drag is entertainment, stylized campy fun popular among cisgender gay men but increasingly inclusive of trans people. If you don’t like drag, that’s OK. I don’t like James Bond movies or beauty pageants. Nobody says I have to.
Drag doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s ridiculous on purpose. It’s high comic relief. That’s why some of us queer folks like it. It’s also probably why some of us don’t. To each their own.
Drag is not erotic art. It’s not stripping. It’s not essentially sexual, at least not anymore than any human art form is. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Since drag is camp, you sometimes find drag queens who do parodies of erotic art like burlesque. But if it’s drag, it’s got to be parody. Try to wrap your mind around that, because it’s important.
Drag is not always queer. Sometimes it’s even Christian.
Stop the pearl clutching! As LGBTQ Christian Esther Spurrill-Jones wrote this morning in Prism & Pen, the first drag show SHE ever attended was at a conservative Christian church. They didn’t call it drag, but it was, in every sense of the word. Nobody clutched their pearls — just like Christians don’t clutch their pearls when straight Christian Tyler Perry does drag. And when he’s playing Medea, that IS drag, boys and girls.
LGBTQ parents don’t take their kids to drag shows to sexualize them
They take them to share the joy of their culture, have fun, and laugh. Why should a child equate dressing up in a fancy costume, wearing a wig, lip synching, and acting ridiculous to sex?
What’s the connection?
There isn’t one, except in the minds of pearl clutchers who think LGBTQ culture and LGBTQ people are intrinsically toxic.
We aren’t, no matter how many lies Christina Pushaw tells.
Hey, Pushaw! All that sex and sex-abuse grooming you see? It’s in your mind. What say you get it out of the gutter?
James Finn is a columnist for the LA Blade, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected].
The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished with permission.
Roe ruling returns us to the discriminatory 1950s
For the first time, I no longer think of our nation as a democracy
(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part column.)
I love looking at photos of my grandmother in the 1950s, going out to lunch with her friends, wearing hats with combs, white gloves in hand.
The 1950s had it all over us in style, I think.
Until, I remember:
• Black people who were discriminated against had little or no legal recourse;
• Most women couldn’t get a charge card, let alone buy a home, unless their husbands got it for them;
• If you were queer, you could be arrested for dancing with someone of the same-sex at a gay bar, or lose your job because of your sexuality.
Those memories erase my 1950s nostalgia. I’ll enjoy family pictures from that era but I don’t want to return to the 1950s.
Unfortunately, that’s what the Supreme Court has done. The court’s overthrow of Roe v. Wade (in its 6-3 ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) thrusts us back to an era that threatens to be as repressive as the 1950s.
The court’s reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade wasn’t surprising.
Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign made it clear: If elected he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would likely rule to overturn Roe v. Wade. Trump isn’t known for his truth-telling or promise-keeping. But in this critical matter, he wasn’t lying. He kept his word.
But the court’s ending nearly 50 years of a fundamental right is still gut-wrenching.
We’ve known that America, though a democracy, has long had a record of denying rights and dignity to all of its citizens.
Black people were enslaved. For a good part of our history only white men could vote. Japanese people were put in concentration camps during World War II. To avoid being scorned by their families, most queer people had to be closeted.
Yet until the court overturned Roe v. Wade, no civil right had been taken away.
Now, for the first time, I no longer think of our nation as a democracy.
As I’m writing, at least 13 states have laws that will immediately or in a short time ban abortions. States where abortion remains illegal are looking to find ways to prosecute out-of-state clinics and doctors who perform abortions.
In Texas, citizens are legally permitted to sue anyone (from an Uber driver to a clergy person to a doctor or clinic) who performs an abortion or helps anyone to obtain an abortion.
Putting reproductive freedom into the quagmire of state legislatures isn’t enough for many Republicans and members of the religious right.
They’re chomping at the bit, if the Democrats lose their slim majority in Congress and a Republican becomes president in 2024, to impose a federal ban on abortion.
To add to this toxic mix, some Republicans and members of the religious right want to punish women who’ve had abortions.
I am terrified for all who seek reproductive health care.
I have childhood memories of my mom, who had type 1 diabetes, having an abortion pre- Roe v. Wade. If my mother hadn’t had the abortion, she may have died when I was 7 and my brother was 4. Though devastated by the stigma of having an abortion when terminating a pregnancy wasn’t legal, my mom was lucky. She could afford to have an abortion.
Then (as now), many poor women couldn’t have afforded to have an abortion or have the means to travel out of state to end their pregnancies.
One in four women have had an abortion. Now those needing reproductive health care (whether an abortion or, in some cases, treatment for miscarriage) again face stigma. Poverty will prevent many from having legal, safe abortions.
People won’t stop terminating their pregnancies. If they have to, they’ll resort to unsafe, self-administered abortions.
As a lesbian, I, like many queer folk, fear that the repeal of Roe will be a foreshadowing of the overturning of LGBTQ rights (from marriage equality to the right to have sex with whom we love).
In post-Roe America, fighting for the rights and dignity of women, LGBTQ folk and other marginalized people will be the life’s work of our generation and of generations to come.
Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.
We need more inclusive data to drive progress for LGBTQI+ communities
Bill would require federal surveys to include questions on sexual orientation, gender identity
As we celebrate the immeasurable contributions of LGBTQI+ people during Pride month and commemorate the 53rd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, we must also renew our commitment to advancing a more equitable America for our LGBTQI+ communities.
Seven years ago, the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, but despite this progress, over half of U.S. states can still deny LGBTQI+ people in the United States basic freedoms. LGBTQI+ individuals can still be denied a rental home or a wedding cake, simply because of who they love or how they identify.
Even worse, conservative lawmakers in state legislatures across the country are passing extreme bills targeting LGBTQI+ communities. These Republican-sponsored measures directly attack LGBTQI+ youth—their identity, dignity, and even access to basic health care.
The historic inequities faced by the LGBTQI+ communities and the uptick of radical, anti-LGBTQI+ attacks demand a coordinated federal response. But for far too long, policymakers have lacked the data necessary to craft and implement public policy that serves LGBTQI+ people in the United States.
While the federal government currently collects some data on LGBTQI+ people, it falls dramatically short.
The American Community Survey only accounts for cohabitating same-sex couples—meaning that it does not capture more than 5 in 6 LGBTQI+ adults.
That is why the U.S. House of Representatives passed the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act last week in a historic bipartisan vote of 220-201.
The bill would require federal surveys to include questions pertaining to sexual orientation, gender identity, and variations on sex characteristics on a voluntary, confidential basis. By doing this, the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act would ensure that lawmakers and federal agencies have the comprehensive data they need to advance polices that better serve LGBTQI+ people.
Solid data on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal surveys will help lawmakers craft policies to remedy the disparities faced by LGBTQI+ individuals—particularly LGBTQI+ people of color, who are disproportionately impacted by these disparities. More comprehensive and inclusive federal data could help remedy systemic inequities in unemployment, health care, housing instability and more.
Earlier this month, President Biden issued a groundbreaking executive order to advance equality for LGBTQI+ people across the United States — including by expanding the collection of data pertaining to LGBTQI+ people in the United States. This legislation would expand the ability of our federal agencies to follow the President’s directive so that we can craft policies tailored to the specific needs of our LGBTQI+ communities.
As parents, we also championed this legislation because it will help parents across the country better understand LGTBQI+ youth and their experiences. LGBTQI+ youth deserve the best available data-driven information and resources to validate their experiences, protect them from harm, and help them thrive. Together, we’ll be able to provide these resources for LGBTQI+ youth who are higher risk of depression and attempted suicide.
The LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act is a long overdue step in the right direction, and it could not have been possible without the tireless work of LGBTQI+ organizations and activists. More than 150 LGBTQI+ groups and allies have helped shape this bill to ensure that Congress enacts the most comprehensive and effective legislation possible.
Policymakers have a duty to lift LGBTQI+ voices and ensure our LGBTQI+ constituents are all seen, heard, and counted. The House made history this Pride month and passed the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act, we urge our colleagues in the Senate to do the same.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D) is a member of the U.S. House from Arizona; Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D) is a member of the U.S. House from New York.
Turkey Pride crackdowns only strengthen LGBTQ resistance
Hundreds arrested in Istanbul on Sunday
The waving colors of the thousand shades inside of a rainbow,
The sparkling joy from the pride and honor of self-declaration,
The echoing sounds of the steps for solidarity in the cobblestone streets of İstanbul,
To unite for equality, for justice, for solely our right to be.
This was our goal, our expectation and our hope for Pride Turkey 2022. It has, however, been overshadowed by the government’s vicious attempts to repress the colors of the LGBTQI+ community.
First, it started with the ban of Pride speeches and panels that many district governors and other local authorities across Turkey announced. Local police officers raided the many event venues as if “illegal” activities were being conducted.
As in the last couple of years, it was already expected the government would ban the Pride marches in many cities. It was, however, the first time the government officially tried to prevent even face-to-face community gatherings of LGBTQI+ organizations. It was a type of intervention reflecting the level of fear and intolerance of the government regarding the growing connection, solidarity and public visibility of LGBTQI+ community.
Nevertheless, oppression often brings out the most creative means. As such, Pride committees have carried all the activities on digital platforms. Many activists and civil society representatives have shown support by participating in live broadcasts from event venues, and the voice of LGBTQI+ solidarity still reached a wide audience.
Subsequently, the most drastic pressure by the government has manifested itself during the Pride marches. The police violently intervened and used unproportionate force against marchers in many cities, which resulted in a radical number of unwarranted detentions.
While 530 LGBTQI+ activists were taken into custody over the last 37 days across Turkey, 373 of them were arrested during the Istanbul Pride march on June 26. This constitutes a first, since the Istanbul Pride arrests constituted the largest number of people taken into custody during a street march since the Gezi protests.
Will these enormous efforts to pressure win the day? The answer is “definitely no.” On the contrary, it sparked a backlash by triggering strong solidarity among Turkey’s queer community. The outstanding resistance of LGBTQI+ marchers gained public recognition on social media, while persistent legal support of LGBTQI+ initiatives canceled all the detentions. In the end, the exhaustive pressures of the government could not manage to fade the multicolor of LGBTQI+ identity. In fact, it helped our rainbow flag to shine even more glamorous and visible.
We, as members of the LGBTQI+ community, have once again proved through this entire experience that solidarity, togetherness and collective resistance are the most powerful facilitators in our fight to exist equally.
In honor of the unbreakable resistance of Turkey Pride 2022 supporters,
Thanks to you, the cobblestones of Istanbul and every street in Turkey echoed with the steps of LGBTQI+ solidarity.
Dilek İçten is a journalist, researcher and civil society expert with a demonstrated history of working in interdisciplinary and investigative research projects examining the socio-cultural dynamics of media, gender and migration. The focus of her work varies from freedom of expression, media censorship and journalistic independence to gender based-discrimination and hate speech against disadvantaged groups and minorities.
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