On January 9th, 2023, Little Rock, Arkansas, Senate filled a bill that would have the power to change history as we know it. The statement they had filed is called Senate Bill 43. This bill concludes that they will restrict drag shows for children under eighteen years old.
The bill continues to define a drag performance as “a performer exhibiting a gender identity that is different from the performer’s gender assigned at birth.” This includes makeup, clothing, and other traditionally worn to “exaggerate the gender identity of the performer’s opposite sex.” Along with “as someone dancing, singing, and lip-syncing to an audience of two or more people while using a different gender identity than the one given at birth.”
It was a shock to the world, well, the world that knew of this instance. Most of the country had not heard about it. Other than those within Arkansas.
Since the first appearance of the bill surfaced, there have been protests from people within the LGBTQIA+ community to voice their concerns. In contrast, the Senate would argue its points and reasons for passing this bill.
According to offthepress.com, Arkansas Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is “set to ban drag shows to “protect” children after already cracking down on critical race theory in schools.” As well as redefining drag shows as “adult-oriented” shows.
Taylor Gonce, a freshman theatre major, says, “There are movies everywhere that revolve around sex and love, and they emphasize straight relationships all the time. It’s being fed to children all the time.”
Liv Stevens, a junior Secondary English Education major, backed up Gonce’s statement, “If your kid has internet access, they’re not being protected from nudity.”
Spokeswoman for the governor Alexa Henning says they were not aiming to “ban anything”; they only wanted to protect the children.
Twitter user Irma tweets, “Damn, now Arkansas joins the list of Anti-LGBTQIA2S+ States with the Ark. House voting on and passing a bill to restrict “adult oriented” performances. What the hell is everyone’s issue with Drag Shows? But Strip Clubs are fine? Disgraceful Right Wing homophobia and transphobia!!!”
Many more Twitter users agree with Irma. However, many Senators are adamant about following through with this bill. As a result, the bill was engrossed through the House on February 2nd, 2023.
What does this mean for us? It may not affect some of us because they are not in Arkansas. However, some beg to differ.
“Drag is not inherently sexual. It’s up for personal interruption. I have seen drag tea parties and drag brunches, just like drag queens hanging out with people, and maybe they’ll do a musical number. Oftentimes, in the morning or early afternoon period of those events, it’ll be 18 and younger appropriate. Once it gets into the evening time, that’s when it becomes the adult-only period.” Stevens voices.
When asked if she had heard about what was happening in Arkansas, she said that she had found out through Facebook but did not know much about it. However, while being interviewed, she said she was shocked and disheartened to learn about what was happening within the last month.
“That’s something that’s so basic; I don’t see how that would hurt a kid. It’s stripping kids and youths of freedom of expression.” Stevens says.
According to apnews.com, Republican Senator Gary Stubblefield voiced, “If you need your child to be entertained by a big human in a costume, take them to the circus or something. To me, this is putting our children in situations that’s a violation of their personal boundaries.”
When the interview started, Bolu Dogari, a senior Psychology major, had just heard of this issue. But, ultimately, she said she was scared it would become part of the law.
“There are so many issues with how they’re going to enforce that. The age, it makes sense for them not to go into bars, but like if it’s in a library, how do you enforce that? It’s not like it’s harming the children anyways.” explained Bolu.
In the end, people have been discussing more and more about the needs of the children during this matter. But has anyone stopped considering that children should speak for themselves?
Taylor still needed to learn about this issue. Yet, she had a lot to say about what should be considered.
“I think we shouldn’t speak for children. A lot of people try to downplay children’s intelligence, but they see everything, and they always take that in, and they’re always learning. I think it’d be a good idea to have a kid’s say because they don’t see anything wrong with that. For instance, racism isn’t inherited; it’s taught.” Taylor says.
Backing up Taylor’s point, Bolu and Liv both said their intakes.
Bolu said, “I feel like we think of children like… they’re not little. They see the world, they think about the world in different ways. This is an issue that concerns them; they need to learn about this issue and make their own decision. Like when parents are divorcing, they ask the kid, ‘who do you want to go with?’ Kid’s opinions are important.”
Liv says, “It needs to be parent to parent. What a parent wants to expose their kid to is up to them. Oftentimes, the same amount of nudity that you’re being exposed to in drag shows is the same that you would be exposed to at the pool, at the beach, the same places where kids are naturally occurring all the time.”
After everything they have voiced, all these students said they wouldn’t be surprised if other states started to do the same. They said that this sort of thing could spread like wildfire, hiding that those who wanted to express themselves freely would be unable to do so with this restriction. Yet, they hope that it wouldn’t be the outcome of what is happening in Arkansas.
Although Arkansas is affected by this bill, it does not mean that other states could join in and make their bills for their own needs. People within the LGBTQIA+ community are still being shut down or torn apart with each passing day.
As Taylor says, “It’s trying to keep what’s different from the standard cookie-cutter life that they want everyone to follow.”
While this is still an ongoing process, more updates will come soon.