Fort Lauderdale – Crude and funny, or obscene and downright criminal?
Performers of the reality TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” toured the country for “Drag Christmas,” sparking backlash in Florida and becoming the focus of a bitter culture war.
The popular drag show was halted in Fort Lauderdale on Monday night, sparking an investigation in Florida the next day after state officials filed a complaint that the “explicit” show was directed at children.
A spokesman for Governor Ron DeSantis announced the news in a tweet on Tuesday, happy to meet Fear from conservatives and from the LGBTQ community and their allies.
Heather Moraitis, Fort Lauderdale’s new commissioner and her husband, George, the former chairman of the Broward Republican Party, applauded the governor.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Governor DeSantis has taken a stance on drag shows and sexually explicit acts in front of children,” she said. “The video and photos received by the governor’s office are serious enough to spark an investigation. We don’t need to oversexualize our children.”
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, the city’s first openly gay mayor, called the investigation a political stunt.
“This isn’t the first time Fort Lauderdale has hosted a drag show. It’s become part of American culture,” Trantalis said. “It’s entertainment – that’s the way it needs to be seen. I’m Tell the event organizers have posted signs at all entrances saying this is an adult show unless they are accompanied by a parent, 18 and over. Now you can’t say no to parents taking their kids there. “
For the past eight years, drag shows have traveled across the United States during the holiday season. The show closed in Miami on Tuesday, Orlando on Wednesday and will play in Clearwater on Thursday.
In Fort Lauderdale, conservative activist Chris Nelson was escorted out of a show Monday after it was interrupted by protest chants. “It’s not right!” he yelled midway through his performance, to boos from an exasperated audience. “It’s not right for kids to do this.”
Nielsen’s video, posted on Twitter Monday night, had more than 2.4 million views as of Wednesday afternoon.
After walking out of the theater, Nelson told police: “It’s not right to see a drag show with kids. You should arrest them because they had babies. I saw kids there. And that’s not right.”
Nelson posted this comment above the tweet: “After noticing multiple kids in the audience at Fort Lauderdale’s explicit Drag Queen Christmas, I call on performer Nina West to invite and allow the kids to come Watch her sexually explicit shows!”
On Tuesday, DeSantis spokesman Brian Griffin tweeted: “The U.S. Department of Business and Professional Regulation is aware of multiple complaints regarding a sexual performance against children on Dec. 26 in Fort Lauderdale The department is actively investigating the matter, including footage and photos of the event. Exposing children to sexually explicit activity is a crime in Florida and is a violation of the department’s licensing standards for operating a business and holding a liquor license .”
Some venues advertise the event as suitable for all ages, but Broward Center officials said the show was not advertised as family entertainment or family-friendly. According to the center, admission is limited to patrons 18 or older unless accompanied by a parent.
An earlier publicity claimed the event was an “all ages show” that “may contain adult content”.
Barbra Stern, chair of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts board, said the wording had been changing while center officials monitored the online chat.
“Everybody knows drag shows have a sense of humor and costumes,” Stern said. “It should be a parent’s choice whether or not to bring their children. We have protocols in place. We have staff checking ID. Some teens have been turned away. I know there have been children who have come with their parents.”
Last week, in Missouri, the venue announced that ticket holders must be at least 18 years old in the hours before the show, and kids were turned away.
The town’s mayor raised the age requirement amid concerns about what would be acceptable to minors.
In Clearwater, the venue does not allow children.
State officials issued warnings to venues in Miami and Orlando, saying they had reason to believe the show involved simulated sexual activity and exposure of sexual organs. The letter warns that venues risk losing their licenses if minors are allowed in. According to the letter, allowing children to participate in a drag show would constitute an act of indecency, disorderly conduct and a public nuisance.
Steve Glassman, Fort Lauderdale’s openly gay commissioner, said the recently announced investigation demonized drag queens.
“Continuing to highlight the culture war issue is quite troubling and doesn’t address the real concerns that affect Floridians every day,” Glassman said. “If Florida really cares about freedom, then the government can’t censor art and demonize drag queens.”
Moratis believes that drag shows should not admit children under the age of 18.
“If we can’t do that at the local level, I think we need the governor to step in and lead,” she said. “In Florida, it is illegal to engage in sexually explicit acts in front of children. I would never take my kids to a drag show, and neither will my husband.”
Michael Rajner, a gay activist in Fort Lauderdale, called the recent uproar the worst political arena ever.
“The hysteria and clamor surrounding ‘Drag Queen Christmas’ is just the latest example of right-wing extremists trying to justify Governor DeSantis’ weaponization of state institutions against the LGBTQ community,” he said. “This latest sideshow by extremists isn’t really about the sexualization of children. If it were, this same group would be protesting beyond Hooters, movie theaters, video game creators, and fixing Florida’s privatized foster care system. “
it is not the first time The state has taken action against drag show venues.
Over the summer, the state’s business watchdog singled out a drag show at Miami’s R House restaurant that was witnessed by children.
As DeSantis said, the state launched an investigation after a video showed a nearly naked drag queen “parading” around with a toddler.
At the time, DeSantis declared that kids don’t need to “have some agenda down their throats” all the time.
“We said, ‘Wait a minute, it’s wrong to involve kids,'” he said at a news conference in Tampa. “That’s not how you take care of our kids. You protect kids. You don’t expose them to inappropriate things.”
The restaurant said DeSantis threatened to revoke the restaurant’s liquor license but has not done so.
R House issued a statement Wednesday: “The situation continues and the R House owners, through their attorneys, will continue to work with the City’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation to remedy the situation.”
Fort Lauderdale resident Linda Carlson said she attended Monday’s show to celebrate her birthday with 17 friends over the age of 18.
“I’ve always loved drag shows,” she said. “We have fun.”
Carlson doesn’t recall anyone simulating sex on the show.
“If you watch cheerleading at a football game, you’re going to see more pelvic movement than anything we’ve ever seen,” she said. “It’s a typical drag show. If I go to a drag show and they’re singing hallelujahs and hymns, I think I’m in the wrong place. I want to see the costumes, the wigs, the performance.”
Carlson believes the state’s investigation is misguided at best.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “I can’t believe the state isn’t using their time and money better. It’s very, very sad that we live in a state of hate. We’re not alone. But Florida seems to be leading the way.”
Contact Susannah Bryan email@example.com or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan