Students, drag queen scrutinize proposed drag show ban

Nora Mariano

Senior Amelia Vrtis has seen the drag shows at Carmel Pride for two years now and she said she has positive memories of the event.

“I thought it was really impressive that people can dance like that in heels that are insanely high. It was cool to see people dress up and express themselves while doing a full energy performance; it was insane,” Vrtis said.

Additionally, students like sophomore Cole Dangler said they have seen drag at various Pride parades and want to attend a formal drag show.

Dangler said, “Drag is (a way that) gay people carved space for themselves in society, so I feel it’s important to honor that and continue supporting it.”

However, it’s possible that Vrtis, Dangler and many other students at this school won’t be able to see any drag shows until they’re legal adults. Currently, Tennessee has passed legislation banning drag shows on public property and around minors and at least 12 other states have proposed similar bills. While there are no present bills in Indiana, they do exist in three states close to Indiana: Tennessee, West Virginia and Missouri.

The prospective and passed legislature doesn’t outright prohibit drag shows, but it would make attending them much harder. For example, if passed, Missouri would charge drag performers with a Class A misdemeanor if they performed on public property or children viewed the show. 

Class A misdemeanors could result in a fine of up to $5,000 or up to a year of jail time. Other examples of Class A misdemeanors are petty theft and rioting.

Sophomore Jack Kennedy has attended Drag Me To Brunch, a monthly drag show hosted at Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael in Carmel, and disagrees with legislators’ decisions.

 “I honestly think it’s stupid. Drag queens aren’t afraid to be themselves and that’s something to commend,” Kennedy said. “What harm does it do? The scariest thing about drag is when you are shocked by a death drop.”

Kennedy is referencing a dance move where performers kick high into the air while purposefully falling onto their backs. 

Vrtis said she agrees with Kennedy, “I think a lot of (misconceptions) are just rooted in hate and misinformation and honestly even jealousy. People are jealous that they (aren’t talented enough) to dress up and do a whole singing performance; it’s definitely out of jealousy. These criticisms on drag shows are ignorant and don’t hold any sort of value.”

Ana Crusis is a drag queen who has won awards such as Miss Gay Indiana 2019/2020 and Miss Glamour 2019, and, according to Crusis, drag has a positive impact on communities.

Crusis said via email, “Drag impacts the local communities by providing entertainment, enjoyment, education and also visibility to and support for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Many of the states restricting or looking to restrict drag performances are focusing on minimizing children’s exposure to drag. Dangler agrees that not all content is family-friendly, but children can still enjoy family friendly shows.

“I don’t think (drag) should be like alcohol where it’s illegal (for) a certain age to go to a drag show, I just think that whoever’s hosting should be transparent about the age level of the humor,” Dangler said. 

Crusis also pushed back against the notion that drag aims to corrupt.

“I hope that people understand that drag queens are not scary,” Crusis said. “We are not deviant members of society trying to corrupt; we are simply looking to bring a smile to peoples’ faces through our performances.”

According to Kennedy, drag shows are definitely succeeding in spreading joy. He attended Drag Me to Brunch with his cousin, who was 8 years old at the time, and said she had a great experience. 

“The most memorable costumes came from one queen who wore a big, pink, feathery Carnaval outfit in the first half and a house dress or sleeping gown with a wig made of pool noodles and pig slippers in the second half,” Kennedy said.

Crusis’ first time in full drag was as Glinda the Good Witch from Wizard of Oz and she said drag empowers her. 

“Being a drag queen is very similar to being a superhero. When I transform into Ana, I’m a representative for my community; I aim to entertain, uplift and inspire. Performing in drag provides me a fun creative outlet through which I’ve made many connections and friendships over the years,” Crusis said. “Drag and specifically pageantry pushes me to be the best version of myself.” 

Crusis also highlighted the activism of the drag community and said the Indy Bag Ladies have been using drag to raise money for those living with HIV/AIDS since 1981. 

Crusis said, “I’m happy that drag has become more mainstream in recent years and would be very disappointed if we slid backward to pre-Stonewall times where drag was very underground. I’m hoping that through advocacy, education and action, we can affect positive change and keep drag alive and well throughout our nation.”