Threats to Free Artistic Expression

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Americans for the Arts reports that the 2023 State Legislative Session saw over 45 pieces of legislation in 18 states being introduced to regulate drag performances, with several becoming law. This seems to be in response to the perceived need to “protect children” from contact with a performer in a costume that does not represent that person’s assigned gender role. The most common instances, which a majority of the legislation seeks to regulate, are events that take place in libraries and schools. These are commonly known as Drag Queen Story Hours. The vast majority of these will likely not become law, but rather operate as “messaging bills” that seek to show voters that legislators are responding to the perceived issue.

Whether the focus is drag productions, cabaret, or performances with drag elements, these legislative efforts have a huge impact on artists’ freedom of expression. There are some very popular shows, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Forum” and “Leading Ladies” immediately come to mind, that have major plot elements that involve men dressing as women. Since many community theatres perform in their local school auditoriums, are these soon to be in their sights?

If you oppose this legislation, we encourage you to contact your state legislature to express your concerns. Americans for the Arts website has a section dedicated to legislative issues and updates surrounding drag and cabaret bills (click this link).