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The Student Newspaper of Hopkins School

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The Drag War Drags On

Rain Zeng ’26 Assistant Op/Ed Editor
Colorful costumes, exaggerated makeup, and queer creativity. These are elements of drag, a performance art with complex roots and a vital role in LGBTQ+ culture.
Colorful costumes, exaggerated makeup, and queer creativity. These are elements of drag, a performance art with complex roots and a vital role in LGBTQ+ culture. Beyond that, the definition of drag is quite nuanced. According to Melanie Walsh, a psychology professor at the University of New Haven, drag is often conflated with cross-dressing, though the terms are not synonymous: Whereas cross-dressing is a more private and often personal affair, drag tends to emphasize community and performance. Harris Kornstein, a humanities professor at the University of Arizona, posits that crossdressing is an oversimplified definition that focuses too much on gender nonconformity. To Kornstein, the art of drag has more to do with humor and extravagance.

The rising popularity of this art form has inspired a number of nonprofits such as Drag Queen Story Hour, a program in which drag queens read books to children and parents. According to the program’s website, Drag Queen Story Hour is an effort to promote reading “through the glamorous art of drag.” Opponents of drag are not taking kindly to these initiatives, however, frequently organizing protests in an effort to restrict these performances. And on a governmental level, there has been a recent uptick in legislation restricting drag performances. Kate Ruane, Director of US Free Expression at PEN America, believes that “this is part of a broader rise in political rhetoric about drag performances.” PEN America is part of an international
organization protecting free expression in literature, and as stated on their site, anti-drag legislation endangers “an exercise of artistic and creative expression that should be free from government suppression.” But why has drag become such a controversial topic? To understand the panic, America’s history of political homophobia must be considered. For example, Anita Bryant’s Save Our Children campaign in the 1970s declared homosexuality a danger to children in response to a partial ban on sexuality-based discrimination. Bryant argued that “homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they must recruit... the youth of America.” The organization’s efforts resulted in a 1978 California ballot measure to ban LGBTQ+ staff from public schools. State Senator John Briggs assured supporters at the time: “We are going to...remove openly and blatant homosexuals from
influencing and teaching our young. The sentiment that the LGBTQ+ community poses a threat to children is baseless — there is no research to support that they are any more dangerous than non-LGBTQ+ people. In response to this perceived threat, some commentators have advocated for a turn to violence. Tucker Carlson, the host of one of the widely-viewed conservative talk shows, said on Fox News about the LGBTQ+ community: “No matter what the law says, your duty, your moral duty, is to defend your children. This is an attack on your children and you should fight back.” This particularly inflammatory rhetoric has some taking it to heart in the context of drag shows. Businesses like Uprising Bakery & Cafe in Chicago have faced such violence. A family-friendly drag show hosted by the bakery sparked the wrath of vandals who destroyed doors and windows, broke glass, and painted messages of hate on the shop. According to a press release, “Protestors spent more
than 120 consecutive days on the property, creating disturbances, inciting violence, photographing license plates of patrons, and harassing them on social media.” Corinna Sac, the owner of the bakery, could no longer afford to keep Uprising open due to the intimidation prospective customers faced. The shop was set to close on March 31, but sympathetic members of the community were able to keep it open with donations. Sadly, performers, organizers, and parents in some states may no longer be able to participate in drag events. Over 20 bills have been introduced across 15 US states thus far to restrict or ban events featuring drag artists. For instance, Tennessee HB 9 classifies “male and female impersonators” as “adult-oriented performances that are harmful to minors.”

All this may sound like a faraway issue, but 340 bills targeting LGBTQ+ Americans have already been introduced in 2023 already, with almost half directed at the transgender community. That is more than any other year by far, and the year is far from over. As young Americans, our role is more crucial than ever. These bills have the potential to impact our generation in a profound way. Of course, it’s helpful to spread the word and support protestors in our community, but perhaps more importantly, it is our obligation as students to learn how our own words alone can snowball into nationwide change — for better or for worse.
Editor in Chief 
Asher Joseph

Managing Editor 
Margaret Russell

Claire Billings
Jo Reymond
Rose Porosoff
Eric Roberts
Abby Rakotomavo
Elona Spiewak
Veena Scholand
Miriam Levin
Liliana Dumas
Saisha Ghai
Olivia Yu
Anya Mahajan
Rain Zeng
Winter Szarabajka
Aerin O'Brien

Karun Srihari
Samantha Bernstein
Hana Beauregard
Micah Betts
Elaina Paktuka
Edel Lee
Anjali van Bladel
Nate Gerber
Rebecca Li

Hailey Willey
Web Editors
Amelia Hudonogov-Foster
Anvi Pathak
Chloe Wang

Faculty Advisers
Stephen May
Elizabeth Gleason
Shanti Madison
The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
The Razor,
 an open forum publication, is published monthly during the school year by students of: 
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