The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

'A personal attack': NC House Republicans introduce bill to criminalize drag shows

Lolita Chanel collects tips from the crowd during a performance. Photo courtesy of Bobby Kerns.

On April 18, Republican lawmakers in the N.C. House of Representatives filed House Bill 673,  which would criminalize drag shows in the presence of minors statewide.  

In the bill, the definition of “adult live entertainment” includes "male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration." The bill does not clarify the meaning of "prurient interest" or "male or female impersonators."  

N.C. Rep. Jeff Zenger (R-Forsyth), one of the primary sponsors of the bill, said in a statement to WCNC that constituents were concerned after an incident at Forsyth Technical Community College in which a drag queen performed a lap dance on a high school student. 

"This bill is a response to those concerns expressed to me about age-appropriate entertainment," Zenger said.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, said in an interview with ABC11 that while adults have the right to see adult performances like drag shows, they should not be imposed on children.

The proposed bill makes a first offense a Class A1 misdemeanor and subsequent offenses Class I felonies. Class I felonies are punishable by 3 to 12 months in prison. Other Class A1 misdemeanors include child abuse and sexual battery, while Class I felonies include domestic violence and terrorist threats.

“That’s a lot for just putting on some heels,” Lolita Chanel, a North Carolina drag queen, said.         

She said the bill seeks to criminalize the transgender and queer communities.

“Everything you put into drag is nothing more than art,” Chanel said. “And the queer community, in general, has this as our base type of expression.”       

David Zealy-Wright, a therapist, educator and drag performer who goes by the stage name DeVida, said drag is a place for him to perform authentically.

“Drag can be political. Drag can be thought-provoking. Drag can be funny,” Buff Faye, a drag queen and activist, said. “That's what it means to me.”     

Zealy-Wright said that the big-picture goal of this legislation is to discriminate against queer people — to incarcerate, remove and limit the community's freedoms — regardless of the appropriateness or safety of such actions.             

Faye said bills targeting drag performances aim to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community and motivate the Republican base to vote in the gubernatorial election.

Chanel said they are scared about the proposed legislation and have received messages from loved ones who share their fear. She said the legislation impacts everyone, not just the drag community.            

“I realize, to these lawmakers, that they probably don't see this as that big of a deal,” Zealy-Wright said. “But it is felt very much as a personal attack.”

The bill could put people out of work, Zealy-Wright said, especially those who rely on successful drag brunches in cities like Raleigh and Charlotte for their livelihoods. He said that passing the proposed legislation would result in people openly defying the law and being arrested as a result.  

Chanel said that the bill could impact the drag community's charitable donations and hurt nonprofits that depend on their support.  

Drag performers have historically served as activists and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Drag queens like Marsha P. Johnson lead the Stonewall Riots in 1969 in protest of police raids on gay clubs.

“We are the face of the queer community,” Chanel said.          

Zealy-Wright predicted more behavioral and emotional challenges for LGBTQ+ youth if H.B. 673 passes. He also thinks young voters will not reelect officials pushing this legislation, since he said it is an unreasonable use of time and taxpayer dollars — which he considers a bipartisan view.

“At the end of the day, all this rhetoric hurts our young LGBTQ+ youth who are struggling already just to be who they are,” Faye said.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.


@DTHCityState | 

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for November 20, 2023

More in LGBTQ

More in City & State

More in City & County

More in The OC Report