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Opinion | Why are Republicans suddenly worried about drag?

If drag queens are so bad, so morally repugnant, conservatives are about 70 years too late.


Drag queens. Apparently, they are the new scourge. They have replaced the undocumented, Black Lives Matters activists, Muslims, and feminists as the Right’s favorite target.

Who knows how long this obsession will last. But for now, it seems safer to be simply gay, lesbian, bi or even trans than to be a drag queen — at least as far as the Alabama Legislature is concerned. Because its Republicans have their sites set on drag queens.

HB401 is their current weapon of choice. And this is a shoot-first situation if there ever was one.

I say this because this legislation seems to have been created without any compelling reason. It’s the old “let’s find a crime so we can dish out some punishment” trick.

Men dressing like women – or vice versa – doesn’t harm anyone. Sure, it may shock someone’s delicate sensibilities, but nothing more.

Maybe I should say someone’s “adult” sensibilities. Because children don’t seem to be adversely affected by drag queens at all.

If you haven’t seen any of the storytime readings by them in public libraries, search them on Google. All you’ll see are crowds of little ones and their moms, paying rapt attention to the queens entertaining them.

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Yet, critics think that drag queens are a threat to heterosexuality. That they are making converts to their way of life. 

That’s why Tennessee banned drag shows in public spaces even before Alabama did. But the Tennessee ban has been blocked temporarily by a federal judge. Whether or not the ban will prevail is another story. 

Tennessee’s law puts drag queens in the same category as “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, (and) strippers … who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest.” Alabama’s law essentially does the same thing.

But anyone who’s been to a strip club – and has seen a drag show – knows there is no comparison. Strippers show skin. Plenty of skin. And sometimes genitals.

Drag queens are fully clothed. No skin or anything else remotely sexual. It’s a false comparison. A lie, really.  

Which makes me wonder what all the fuss is about. Especially since Hollywood has been featuring drag since at least the 1950s.

Remember Milton Berle? Drag was a regular part of the comedic legend’s repertoire. And I don’t remember Berle being called “prurient.”

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Same for comedian Flip Wilson, one of the first black stars to carry a television show. Wilson’s drag alter ego was the outrageous “Geraldine,” who made my strait-laced father laugh out loud. My father – the same man who would call effeminate men sissies or punks.

For some reason, Geraldine got a pass in our house. The same pass most Americans had been giving other famous Hollywood stars who also performed in drag.

Tony Curtis. Jack Lemmon. Both were queens at times.

Later, it was Dustin Hoffman. Robin Williams. Woody Allen. Al Pacino. Tom Hanks. Eddie Murphy. Martin Lawrence. Various members of the famous British comedy troupe, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

I could name others, but instead I’ll repeat one of these famous names for emphasis: Tom Hanks.

Hanks is one of the most beloved actors of the past few decades. But he and co-star Peter Scolari were in drag regularly on their show “Bosom Buddies.” Their characters pretended to be women so they could live in an all-female apartment complex.

The show ran from 1980 to 1982. That’s over 40 years ago. And I don’t recall Hanks being called “prurient.” In fact, Bosom Buddies may have made Hanks the star he is today.

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If drag queens are so bad, so morally repugnant, conservatives are about 70 years too late with their complaints. In fact, it’s likely that today’s queens derived inspiration from the famous men in drag who proceeded them. The same ones that conservatives apparently once embraced, tolerated – or at least ignored.

So, if anyone is to blame for the fairly recent explosion of drag culture, maybe it isn’t RuPaul, Big Freeda, Tyler Perry’s Madea or the others who have become pop icons.

Maybe it isn’t the lip-syncing queens I saw at Rocket City Pride several years ago. Or the queens who donate their time to read books to children at your local library.

Maybe it’s the conservatives who now only attack drag queens because it’s politically expedient. 

Geraldine would be so disappointed.

David Person is a media personality and consultant who has been working in the Huntsville market since 1986 as a talk show host, columnist, and director/producer. David co-hosts the podcast Alabama Politics This Week.

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