Florida bill would ban minors at drag shows and penalize organizers (includes video story)

Florida lawmakers are cracking down on “adult performances.” A proposed bill (SB 1438) aims at banning children under age 18 from attending drag shows, even when accompanied by a parent. While the proposal doesn’t specifically mention drag shows or other LGBTQ celebrations, it does use the term “adult live performances.” 

The bill defines “adult live performances” as “any show, exhibition, or other presentation in front of a live audience which, in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, specific sexual activities” such as “lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”

Coincidentally, Florida International University Pride Student Union hosted its second annual drag show where it welcomed popular drag kings and queens, such as Athena Dion, Juicy, TP Lords, Spikey Van Dykey, Bad Papi and more to the stage to celebrate a night of love, art and pride.

As colorful flags were raised in the air, performers and attendees used it as an opportunity to ignite the fight for drag. To many, drag is an art form. It’s part of the LGBTQ history and culture; a safe place to express yourself through your clothing, makeup and hair without the worry of being judged. 

 “When you go into these drag shows, you see not only the people from that community but allies [too], kind of like coming together to appreciate the art behind it,” said Sarahi Perez, intern with SAVE LGBT. “The beauty behind it. The love behind it, because again drag shows take a bunch of effort to even pull them together. To create the art, the makeup, the outfits, it’s just a way of appreciating the beauty that goes behind our history.”

An amendment filed by Sen. Clay Yarborough also caught LGBTQ event organizers and business owners in the crossfire. The amended bill bans government entities from issuing permits for events that feature such risqué performances. Any establishment, organizer or performer that violates the bill’s tenets risks losing its license. It could also face a first-degree misdemeanor charge and be subject to fines up to $10,000 for repeated violations. 

“This is how people express themselves at the end of the day,” said Kyah Outten, a student at Florida International University. “The same way they tell us you have to be 21 to drink and check IDs, they don’t close bars.”

Worries circulate that the bill could potentially shut down local pride parades and other LBGTQ+-friendly celebrations. The Miami Beach Pride celebration is April’s most anticipated event and despite the bill, it’s set to go on without a hitch this weekend. But the future of pride is still uncertain. 

On Tuesday, the bill passed the Florida Senate by a 28-12 vote. 

Tynisa Senior is a senior at Florida International University majoring in Digital Communications and Media with a minor in Social Media and E-Marketing Analytics. It is her passion for news and reporting that drives her to pursue a career in anchoring. She loves a challenge and is always looking forward to new opportunities to better her skillset.