Guest post: Drag performances and Rosa Parks

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey at Miscellany Room.

The point of laws like this TN one is to intimidate people and chill expression, and this very thread demonstrates how.

Oh, the law doesn’t specifically say that all drag performances are illegal, only ones that appeal to a prurient interest! And who could be against performances of a prurient interest where CHILDREN might see it? (Won’t somebody think of the children?)

Except what makes something an “appeal to a prurient interest”? Yes, it’s a phrase used in obscenity law, so it has some legal meaning, but obscenity has other requirements that limit its applicability, and even with those it’s still a bit of a dangerously fuzzy concept.

And here in this very thread we have J.A. expressing the view that drag performances are de facto appeals to prurient interest.

Imagine trying to advise a client on what they can and can’t do in TN. Can you perform a stage version of Mrs. Doubtfire? Well, the Robin Williams version didn’t seem terribly sexy, so probably? But maybe not. Maybe it depends on the size of the fake breasts. But hey, you probably wouldn’t be convicted. I mean, you might be arrested and lose your job and not be able to pay rent or mortgage while you await your trial, and end up owing huge amounts of attorneys fees, but you’ll probably be acquitted, right? Sound like a risk you’d like to run?

It’s the same with some of the laws being passed in Florida. Oh, gosh, the law doesn’t say you can’t have books about Rosa Parks in schools! I mean, a teacher wouldn’t be convicted for having such a book in their classroom library. Well, almost certainly not. They probably wouldn’t even be charged. I mean, what are the chances of some conservative parent making a stink, and some crusading and/or politically ambitious D.A. deciding to press charges? That would never happen in the great state of Florida! Well, ok, it might. But probably not! That sounds like something worth risking your career, financial security, and freedom for!

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