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The show must go on: NC bill would ban drag in public

Marigold Showers (left) alongside Alexis Black and Beulah Land on stage at Lazy Hiker. Sylva Belles Drag photo Marigold Showers (left) alongside Alexis Black and Beulah Land on stage at Lazy Hiker. Sylva Belles Drag photo



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 New legislation would ban drag performance in public places and in the presence of minors. Hannah McLeod photo

While there is debate about the origins of the word drag, the concept has ancient roots. For hundreds of years, from ancient Greek civilizations throughout the 20th Century, women were often barred from performing in theater. Men regularly took the parts upon themselves and performed replete with dresses, makeup and exaggerated feminine characteristics.

Often referred to as female impersonators, the performance took on a new, more dynamic meaning in the context of vaudeville shows of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

However, the first person known to refer to themselves as a drag queen, or more specifically the “queen of drag” was a man by the name of William Dorsey Swann. Born into slavery in 1860, Swann organized a series of drag balls in Washington, D.C. throughout the 1880s and 1890s. He was arrested several times when police raided the events and is the first person on record to be arrested for female impersonation in the United States on April 12, 1888.

Today, drag is a form of entertainment that involves music, lip syncing, dancing, comedy and storytelling.  

During Sunday’s show, Showers took her opportunity as host to speak about HB 673, to loud boos of agreement from the crowd, shouts of ‘no hate in my state’ and ‘no hate in the holler.’

“It is a violation of freedom of speech and freedom of expression,” said Showers.

While the bill is troubling for many in the LGBTQ+ community, it is not unique. Several states across the nation have introduced similar bills intended to limit drag performance, including the law in Tennessee that banned drag performance in public places or in the presence of minors.  

In the North Carolina General Assembly this year there are several bills that aim to regulate freedoms of transgender people including the bill that addresses trans athlete participation, and three bills that restrict or ban gender-affirming care to trans youth — SB 560, SB 639 and SB 641.

All are sponsored by Republican lawmakers who recently achieved a supermajority in the house after Rep. Tricia Cotham switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

“They have this idea that children don’t know themselves and that their parents are putting them in harm’s way,” said Showers. “Just using myself as an example, I knew that I was a girl from a young age. I lived in a very conservative community, I still turned out to be a girl. They have this idea that they’re protecting the children, but kids know themselves. The government saying that parents can’t help their kids be who they are is absolutely wrong. That’s what I see. I see the government trying to regulate trans youth, making it hard for them to be themselves. If you don’t have access to yourself from such a young age you might do something terrible.”

For Showers, drag is a creative outlet. She feels connected to building a character, getting creative with makeup and costume, and as a musician herself, the music is always a central piece of her performance.

But beyond all of that, there is something deeper.

“It’s important to know that you’re not alone,” said Showers. “That’s really all there is to it.”

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  • Children are the least judgemental people on this planet and nothing bothers them unless it's taught to them. Drag and dance performances are not corrupting anyone...each individual's interpretation of any activity is what causes corruption. Generations of children grew up watching Looney Toons and saw Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and others dressed as a female and it didn't impact them negatively. You can't and shouldn't legislate behavior, it doesn't work. There are consequences attached to behavioral choices, but the freedom to make those choices is left to the individual.
    For those who believe, God will pass his judgment when he's ready, and he will do it himself in his own good time. Even God didn't control peoples' choices so why does anyone thing they have the right to impose thier beliefs on others. If you allow that with one group, it will spread to all groups eventually and then we're living in a nanny state with Big Brother dictating every move and no one will be allowed to make their own decisions on how to live their own lives.
    Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. - Matthew 7:5
    When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone - John 8:7

    posted by Michelle Jacobs

    Wednesday, 05/03/2023

  • When a society condones and promotes this kind of aberrant behavior, we invite judgement from God. Hmmm... look at what has been happening to our country in very recent years - perhaps it has begun?

    posted by sam hopkins

    Monday, 05/01/2023

  • Folks, it's not so much what I think or what you think, really. Most important is what God thinks and Has clearly said in HIs Word. "In the beginning.. God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27). Note there are only TWO sexes. Most people here in western NC would profess to believe in God and many would claim to follow Him. God is very specific about what is good for us and His rules and commandments are based upon His love for mankind. He strictly forrbids sexulal activity among the same sex or sex with animals. God doesn't change with the times - He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He destroyed two cities (Sodom & Gomorrah) completely for homosexuality. Rome fell from within because of immorality.
    Yes, trans people and homosexuals have always been with us but they used to be "In the closet" for the most part. Now this still very small part of society is pushing hard "in your face" constantly trying to deceive us into accepting this as 'normal'. It will never be normal. God is not mocked; we continue along this path of destruction to our peril...

    posted by sam hopkins

    Monday, 05/01/2023

  • Just another Republican legislators' grab for power. It's all about control, control, control. It's up to the parents to decide what their children will and will not see, read, eat, or where they will or will not go for entertainment or to just enjoy a time with friends. Once the voters understand that the NC Legislators could not care less about them and are simply flexing their control over others, then those same legislators may find themselves out of a job. It cannot happen soon enough. Why today's parents are even tolerating this type of "law making" from elected officials is a mystery to me.

    posted by LoneWolf

    Monday, 05/01/2023

  • I like that Sylva is open minded and allows folks to be themselves and if they like watching drag it’s not hurting anyone. Jesus says love they neighbor and don’t let a few that create fear and decisiveness impede the few freedoms we still have.

    posted by Jay D

    Monday, 05/01/2023

  • It took me a minute to realize that they are literally trying to ban dancing. This is Footloose. We need a Kevin Bacon impersonator

    posted by John B

    Monday, 05/01/2023

  • Thank you for sharing the truth about drag. It is entertainment, and allows people to be fully themselves. All of the drag queens I've met have been way more concerned about protecting children than those who make overreaching laws like this. If people are worried about sexualizing or indoctrinating kids, take a look at beauty pageants where young girls wear tons of make up, bikinis, gowns, etc. That is way more upsetting than a man wearing a dress reading to kids. Drag queens aren't grooming anyone for anything. This is about straight men feeling uncomfortable, period.

    posted by Christy

    Monday, 05/01/2023

  • I will bet that these so called 'performers' are not residents of Sylva. And plenty of those customers who show up to see this bawdy display of trash are also not from Sylva. Just another venue for the immoral white trash of society.

    posted by Hal

    Monday, 05/01/2023

  • Watch the movie 'Cabaret' and you will see where this country is heading. The Weimer Republic of Germany after World War 1 and what followed. Nobody wants to learn from history.

    posted by Lucille Josephs

    Monday, 05/01/2023

  • The next move by NC Republicans will be to ban women from wearing men's clothing, so get out your dresses and skirts, ladies, and take those jeans, shorts, slacks, and leggins to a consignment shop because soon you'll not be able to wear them in public. I'm old enough to remember my friend Susan getting kicked off the campus of a Baptist college in summer 1968 for wearing tailored slacks to class.

    I've attended only one event where men were in drag, the 1976 Bicentennial Bisexual Drag Contest at the Chukker Bar, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We single women and men were as safe there as anywhere on Earth. I was in my mid-20s. Seeing it didn't change me or any of my several friends attending into a bisexual or a homosexual.

    Heck, the owner who put the show on is now a happily married father and grandfather, a pillar of his community in south Alabama. And one of the prize options for the winner was "a night on the town with Callahan" (the owner). And that was what the winner chose!

    The parents and elected men who are so worried about drag shows are fearful people--they fear anyone who doesn't look like, dress like, sound like them. They must know deep inside that they have modeled some behaviors at home that put their children at risk. More than sad.

    posted by Mary

    Thursday, 04/27/2023

  • There are already laws against performing sexual acts or nudity in front of minors. The have to put forward this new law because drag shows don't have that. They have to limit it to "impersonators" because otherwise "prurient interests" would cover Hooters and Miss America.

    There is nothing in this bill to protect children. It's sole purpose is to hurt the kind of people that certain voters want to see hurt.

    The people who accuse drag performers of being "groomers" will support pedophiles every single time that they are straight pedophiles. They will support child marriages. They will endorse the casual sexualization of children as long as it's straight cisgendered sexualization.

    They don't want to protect children. No matter what they tell you. They don't want to protect children.

    posted by Michael

    Wednesday, 04/26/2023

  • I'm glad someone wants to keep these groomers away from our kids. The woke college kids don't speak for the majority of the citizens here. I don't oppose adults doing/attending drag shows. It's just not appropriate for children(i.e. those under 18 years old). I would also say this should apply to places such as strip clubs(which already has similar restrictions in place universally everywhere).

    posted by BT

    Wednesday, 04/26/2023

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