TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa Bay area drag performers are planning a trip to Tallahassee to protest a bill that defines their livelihood as a serious danger to the safety of children.
House Bill 1423 would prohibit restaurants and venues that welcome children from hosting drag shows.
“We want to make sure that people have a good time and we’re not out to hurt anyone,” drag performer KC Starrz told News Channel 8.
Starrz has performed in drag for the past 15 years.
“Most of my performances happen in a bar,” she said, “so it’s already illegal for children under age to be in that setting.”
HB 1423 states “it’s an immediate, serious danger to public health, safety or welfare” if a venue allows children to attend a drag show.
“This bill focuses on ticketed entertainment,” the bill’s sponsor Rep. Randy Fine (R-Brevard County) said. “I think you’re gonna see the bill hopefully expand to include non-ticketed entertainment.”
If the bill is signed into law, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation would be able to issue fines and revoke the business license of venues that admit children to drag shows.
“I don’t understand why folks generally agree that children should not be taken to strip clubs,” Fine said, “but they think children should be taken to clubs where men are dressed up as strippers.”
Drag performer Erica PC said she believes parents should decide if a performance is appropriate for their children, not the state.
“I haven’t even performed in front of kids,” PC said. “There are some queens that do that with brunches and things, but again it’s the parent’s choice to be able to do that and they’re not taking their clothes off, they are performing art.”
PC and Starrz took the stage Thursday night at Tampa’s City Side lounge during a fundraiser in support of the drag performers planning a peaceful protest in Tallahassee.
“Know that we’re people and we need your help to represent us,” PC said. “We vote for you. We pay our taxes. We have legitimate jobs.”
Starrz said she believes the proposed legislation in Florida and other states restrict the rights of drag performers to express themselves.
“We just want you to know that this is so hurtful and so dehumanizing for all of us,” Starrz said.
Organizers of the fundraiser said they raised more than $1,000 for transportation and hotel expenses when the drag queens head to the state capitol next week.