“Every day, we all should have the license to wake up and decide who we want to be and what version we want to put out in the world,” says drag performer Brenda. “Drag is an extension of that.”
The North Carolina Legislature recently proposed a bill, HB 673, to ban drag performances in public and places where minors are present. So far, the bill passed its first reading in the House and was referred to committee on April 19. A similar bill SB 579, was passed in the Senate and is awaiting approval in the House. If the bill is approved, it will be sent to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. While the bill is likely to be vetoed, with Rep. Tricia Cotham’s defection from the Democratic party in April, the Republicans now have a veto-proof supermajority in the legislature, evoking worry from the LGBTQ+ community.
Triad City Beat sat down with two prominent drag performers, Ivy Carter and Brenda, and discussed how they felt about the current pushes being made against drag.
Brenda grew up with a passion for music — her father was a musician at a Baptist church. When she grew up, she was mentored by the famous drag queen Kitty Litter, who had a career spanning three decades. After singing a rendition of “Poor Unfortunate Soul,” Kitty Litter pulled her aside and said, “We’re pulling the trigger on this drag thing for you.” She now says her mother, a Baptist reverend, and her father, a church musician, are her most supportive fans.
Recently, Brenda has become deeply concerned by the bill put forth in the state legislature as well as similar bills being pushed across the country.
“I wish it surprised me,” Brenda says. “People are threatened by what they don’t understand. Drag has a foundation in making a complete and total mockery of traditional gender roles, mainly because for queer people, it’s the expectations surrounding these roles that cause us the most pain. Unfortunately, most Republican lawmakers are white, cisgender, heterosexual and male — and the confines of these antiquated gender roles are so much of what they cling to when defining themselves. They don’t understand drag, so they market it as threatening to the ‘American’ family with their traditional conservative values, and let the system work as it always has.”
While minors are not Brenda’s target audience, she expressed how she sees importance in young people experiencing drag, especially for it to be seen by young LGBTQ+ people.
“Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among queer young people,” said Brenda. “And these bills take away chances for them to be told they are special, loved, and normal by someone like them, at a younger age. Like I said, kids aren’t my ideal audience, but legislating my ability to read or perform for them, assuming I somehow don’t have the same intelligence and ability as other entertainers to adapt to my audience, is infringing on my first amendment rights.”
Ivy Carter, who has been performing drag in North Carolina for six years, touched on how this bill would negatively impact drag queens’ careers.
“This bill that just came out has really touched and hurt a lot of people,” Ivy says. “And for many of these queens, this is their job. This is their main income, their passion that they love to do so much.”
She revealed how she ultimately hopes that the bill will bring the community together to stand beside one another against hate.
“For this bill to be out, it’s time for everyone to come together as one,” Ivy says. “ It’s time to stand beside each other as equal as one and it’s time to do the right thing. It’s time to stand up for ourselves.”
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