‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Tackles Anti-Drag Hysteria: ‘It’s Very Scary’

23A5303 - Credit: MTV
23A5303 - Credit: MTV

The contestants of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15 are confronting anti-drag hate in the show’s latest episode. On Friday, the queens performed in a Wigloose Rusical, a reimagined version of Footloose where a local teacher is attempting to ban drag, as the queens opened up about their fears of new laws.

“With everything presently going on in the world, it feels like we’re taking a giant step back,” Anetra said.

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As the queens prepared their makeup for the Wigloose Rusical, they discussed their fears about doing drag given the onset of anti-drag hysteria around the country. The premise of “Wigloose” hit close to home for the queens as legislation has been passed in Tennessee to prevent drag performers from having shows outdoors and in front of children. Other states, including Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Nebraska, have introduced similar legislation.

At one point Sasha Colby, a trans drag legend based in Los Angeles, asks Mistress Isabelle Brooks if she feels “on guard” when doing drag in her home state of Texas, where legislators are, similar to Tennessee, attempting to categorize drag performances as “sexually oriented business” and remove them from the public eye.

“Most definitely,” Brooks said. “At my home bar, we have kids all the time. It is family-friendly. Of course, we have restrictions in place where they can’t come to Saturday night shows where it gets a little rowdier. I think they just have crazy thoughts about what drag is. It’s very scary at times.”

Late last month, conservative Twitter targeted a performance by Brooks after one account tweeted, “How do I describe this?” and had other conservatives dogpile on how children should not be allowed at drag shows.

“It’s literally just me fully clothed performing at a 21+ venue,” Brooks tweeted at the time. “You grown-ass people not only share these things and harass queer people, but also flood the comments with juvenile insults… These are the ‘parents’ who teach kids hate. It’s fucking disgusting.”

During the episode’s confessional, Colby expressed her worry about the future of drag and gender expression, and how proposed laws are preventing queer people from being themselves openly. Many of the drag-aimed laws are actually veiled attempts at targeting trans people. (A CPAC speaker said that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life” at the conservative conference earlier this month.)

“The state of the world that we live in is so wild. Now they want to outlaw drag and they feel entitled to hurt you,” Colby said in the episode. “It’s such a hard place to be because you really want to be yourself and celebrate who you are. But sometimes you have to be forced to be quiet for pure safety.”

Loosey LaDuca, who’s based in Connecticut, said she sometimes performs at kid-friendly drag shows but has faced “a lot of community backlash.” It comes down to conservatives trying to “divert” from real issues, she explained.

“The whole thing is, ‘We don’t want our kids exposed to this because drag queens are going to be a bad influence on them.’ But then you have people protesting at drag queen story hours and being extremely violent,” LaDuca said. “But someone dressed as a princess reading a story about a mermaid is offensive to them.”

The Wigloose Rusical followed a storyline in a drag queen-centric world where the local leaders of the imaginary city of West Bumtuck are attempting to outlaw drag, and teens are forced to “dress up in secret.” “If you can’t hate yourself, how in the hell are you going to hate somebody else!” exclaims Brooks, playing the musical’s anti-drag leader, reimagining RuPaul’s iconic phrase.

“I think that queer people just going out into the world and showing resilience in just saying, ‘We can’t be fucked with the way y’all think we can,’ that’s going to be the driving force for change,” Luxx Noir London chimed in. “Not me in my politician era!”

Earlier this month, World of Wonder, the production company of RuPaul’s Drag Race, created the Drag Defense Fund to help support the ACLU and drag performers in states where the art form is being targeted.

“Families, communities, and transgender people ourselves are working tirelessly against a relentless assault on transgender people’s basic freedom and rights,” said Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project in a statement. “Across the history of the queer community, our art and our joy has been censored, restricted, and criminalized and those pillars of our community are once again coming under attack.”

Friday’s episode was one of the most competitive all season and saw Latina drag queen Salina EsTitties saying goodbye to the competition after landing in the Bottom Two for the third time. Now, only five queens remain: Sasha Colby, Loosey LaDuca, Luxx Noir London, Anetra, and Mistress Isabelle Brooks.

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