A bill submitted by Nebraska Republican Dave Murman flies under the banner of ‘protecting the children,’ and purports to keep kids from seeing sexualized performances — but in practice, it would serve as a bar to transgender individuals in show business.
The bill blocks “an individual under nineteen years of age or under twenty-one years of age” from attending a drag show.
Setting aside that this ban would actually prevent legal adults (up to 21 if alcohol is served) from making their own decisions about entertainment choices, even under the most conservative reading, it gets worse when the legislation moves on to definitions.
The bill defines a ‘drag show’ in a way that extends it to include any actor who is transgender.
It would also target any actor who uses makeup or clothing to play the role of someone of a different gender — something that has happened in plays and performances since Shakespeare was writing them.
A business allowing a person under 19, or under 21 if alcohol is served, to attend a performance that Murman deems “drag,” would be fined $10k per count, and anyone over 19 bringing along someone under 19 would face a Class I misdemeanor. Here’s how the bill defines a drag show:
“The main aspect of the performance is a performer which exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers; and [t]he performer sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.”
Nebraska comes out with its first anti-trans bill and its a doozy.
It is a drag ban that targets trans people. People under 21 years old can't see drag. It defines drag as trans people performing.
It would charge trans people with misdemeanors.
What on EARTH? pic.twitter.com/EOd7zlZhOt
— Erin Reed (@ErinInTheMorn) January 12, 2023
Someone who “exhibits a gender identity different than…assigned at birth” might indeed include drag performers — but it would also extend to any transgender person who is also a performer. It’s a bad definition, because being trans is not drag — but gets lumped in with the bill’s definition nonetheless.
Since there’s no real legal definition of what “clothing, makeup, or other physical markers” are assigned to a given gender, it could also be interpreted to include, for instance, a man with long hair or a female performer with short hair; a male performer wearing makeup (as stage performers often do to emphasize their features for visibility to the audience); or even a dancer in tights.
The full bill text can be read here.
The good news is that this particular bill has already been “indefinitely postepone[d],” but the bad news is that legislators who support it and similar are still in office and legislating, and there’s zero chance it’s their last effort to criminalize being trans.