Performer and lawmaker comment on anti-drag show petition

An Idaho Drag performer and Democratic lawmaker are speaking out after hearing a petition is circulating to prohibit drag shows in the Gem State.
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 2:35 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —An Idaho Drag performer and Democratic lawmaker are speaking out after hearing a petition is circulating to prohibit drag shows in the Gem State.

The Idaho Family Policy Center is calling upon the Idaho State Legislature to enact legislation to prohibit drag shows in public places or other areas where children are present. The group has started a petition.

“In less than two days we have had over 3,500 concerned Idahoans: grandparents, parents who don’t want this type of garbage in public places where children are present,” said Idaho Family Policy Center President Blaine Conzatti.

Additionally, he said the Idaho State Legislature has a constitutional responsibility under the Idaho State Constitution to enact legislation that promotes public morality and public virtue. He said drag shows are highly sexualized performances and unsafe for children.

Democratic House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel said she thinks the people organizing the petition and supporting it have no idea what dressing in drag actually means or have seen a drag show. She said drag is not about stripping or nudity. It’s not about performing sexual acts. It’s not anything of the kind. It is simply wearing clothes that are more commonly worn by the opposite gender.

“If you go to straight, heterosexual dance performances, and cheerleading performances you might see people dress in some very skimpy, sexy attire, shaking their booties out there in very sexy ways,” said Rubel. “Nobody seems to be complaining about that. It only seems to draw objection when it is a person from the LGBTQ community.”

The IFPC petition has some loaded language stating, “...These creeps are using our children as pawns for their perverse sexual desires”.

Boise drag performer Riley Burrows said in response to the petition that he can remember a time when it was embarrassing to be ignorant. It just makes him sad that drag performers are being put in a class with bad people, and being classified as pedophiles.

“This specific group of people opposing this (drag) tend to have some very homophobic beliefs and practices, and I feel like this goes a lot deeper than wanting to protect your children. I feel like this is deeply rooted in a lot of homophobia and thinking that we are monsters because of our orientation and our expression,” Burrows said.

Burrows was also the producer of the kid’s drag show that was canceled at the Boise Pride Festival. He said he canceled the show due to safety concerns after the show drew criticism from the IDGOP as being inappropriate.

He said hypothetically if the petition were to become law it would be damaging to full-time drag performers like himself who rely on a drag performance to pay the bills. It would also be damaging to the mental health of drag performers who use it as a form of escapism.

“Oh, it’s so important. I myself started drag when I was 15 years old, so I know the importance of being given a space on a stage to express yourself because being a queer kid can be dark and lonely sometimes,” said Burrows. “You often feel very misunderstood. You feel rejected. You feel different, but these drag shows give them, even if it’s just a small glimmer of hope, it gives them a sense of community. It gives them a sense of love.”

Additionally, he said drag organizers like himself go to great lengths to see that performers are behaving responsibly at all-age-appropriate shows. He said at those shows performers do not wear skimpy outfits or have sexualized performances with adult language or song lyrics. Burrows said for the child performers it’s nothing more than playing dress-up.

“It’s the same as if you were to send your kids to a school dance and the scene was rainbows. You put them in the big hair. The big bows. You choose the sparkly shirt. You are not sending your kids out in a swimsuit to be sexualized by the adults,” said Burrows. “These kids are finding fun costumes that make them feel beautiful and performing a song that they like. There’s nothing sexual or exploitive about it "

He said he and others plan to protest the petition by the IDFPC, and Twin Falls Community advocates Brandon Connolly and Arya Walker have created a counter-petition called Freedom for Kids in Idaho Drag Shows.

“The reason we created a counter-petition was to show that this was not public opinion and that there are so many people in Idaho who are completely pro-drag shows and pro-LGBTQ rights,” Walker said.

Rubel said she feels the IDFPC and its supporters are setting a dangerous precedent with this petition, even though in her opinion it’s unconstitutional and probably won’t hold up in court even if it passes. She is also worried similar bills might be presented this legislative session.

“These folks love to tell you what books are allowed to read. They want to tell you what health care you’re allowed to get. They want to tell cities what they’re allowed to name their parks,” said Rubel. “I’m concerned now that their next bandwagon is going to be to try to tell people what they’re allowed to wear.”

In a statement, IDGOP Chair Dorothy Moon said: