I’ll never have to look up the address of the Chapel Tavern; the fact that it’s at 1099 S. Virginia St. is forever burned into my brain, thanks to the bar that was at that address before the Chapel came to be.
The Ten99 club spent four decades in that spot before closing in 2011. It was a beloved gay bar—and was especially known as being a drag-friendly place, well before drag brunches and RuPaul’s Drag Race brought drag out of the dark and into the edge of the mainstream.
Now there’s a concerted effort to shove drag back into the dark—and that effort is succeeding. Numerous states are ramping up their efforts to ban as much drag as they possibly can … led by that alleged bastion of freedom, Florida.
Most of the proponents of these drag bans couch their arguments as “protecting children.” From what, I don’t know. Bugs Bunny? Tootsie? Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger? Can anyone make the case that there’s something, anything, sexualized about Mrs. Doubtfire?
Ah, but some drag queens can be lewd—and as someone who’s seen plenty of lewd drag queens, I can confirm. But I’ve also seen a lot men dressed like men being lewd, and even some women dressed like women being lewd.
The truth is, these actions against drag have nothing to do with sex or being lewd. The Miami Herald reports:
When the historic Plaza Live theater in Orlando hosted an event last December called “A Drag Queen Christmas,” the show drew a full house, noisy street demonstrators—and a small squad of undercover state agents there to document whether children were being exposed to sights that ran afoul of Florida’s decency law.
The Dec. 28 performance featured campy skits like “Screwdolph the Red-Nippled Man Deer” and shimmying, bare-chested men who wouldn’t have been out of place at a Madonna concert. Also a hip thrust or two, similar to what is sometimes indulged in by NFL players after a touchdown. All of it was dutifully recorded by the undercover agents on state-issued iPhones.
But while the agents took photos of three minors at the Orlando drag show—who appeared to be accompanied by adults—they acknowledged that nothing indecent had happened on stage, according to an incident report obtained exclusively by the Miami Herald. …
Still, the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation proceeded to file a complaint against the nonprofit that runs Plaza Live, claiming the venue had illegally exposed children to sexual content. The complaint, issued Feb. 3, seeks to strip the small, nonprofit theater of its liquor license—a serious blow that would likely put it out of business.
It’s all part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statewide crackdown on drag shows, which could escalate further as legislators draft new laws to tighten restrictions on venues that allow minors into those performances.
No, this effort has nothing to do with protecting children—even though I’m sure many of the terribly misguided people who showed up to the Washoe County Commission meeting on Feb. 28 to speak out against Drag Queen Story Hour at the county libraries genuinely believe it does. As Mark Robison of the Reno Gazette-Journal reported: “Many attendees likely received a mass email sent to a self-described Nevada patriots group by Bruce Parks, Washoe County Republican Party chairman. The email urged people to bring their library cards, carry a small U.S. flag and request the end of drag queen library events.”
This all happened even though the County Commission has no direct oversight of the library. Even though taxpayers don’t fund the Drag Queen Story Hour events. (The nonprofit Friends of the Washoe County Library do.) Even though no Drag Queen Story Events are currently scheduled.
This happened because cynical politicians who are happy to foment fear and hate are using drag queens—along with transgender individuals and LGBTQ+ people in general—as a wedge issue.
Drag queens have been a part of Reno’s fabric for decades, and they have never been a threat to kids. Fight the hate, folks.