Are Drag Performers More Dangerous than Mass Shooters?

There have been over 165 mass shootings in the United States this year, the Gun Violence Archive reports. However, state legislators believe that the real threat to this country is LGBTQ+ expression.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, drag is a type of entertainment where people dress up and perform in elaborately feminine ways.

“Any sort of thing that challenges cultural norms is frightening to people. People push back on anything that they perceive as a threat to the majority or undermining what they perceive to be essential structures of the community,” said Dr. Emily Bryan, a professor in the English department.

The Guardian reported that at least 32 bills have been filed in the United States this year that target drag performances. For example, Tennessee passed a bill into law in March that banned “adult cabaret performances” on public property or anywhere children could view them.

This happened just weeks before a mass shooting occurred at The Covenant School in Nashville, TN on March 27, where three children and three adults were killed.

“White American history is built on a system of dehumanization as an excuse for violence,” said Prof. Amie Reilly. “I think the link between gun violence, mass shootings and drag show banning lies in this correlation. The banning of drag shows vilifies gender expression and identity (and is, I would argue, an act of violence). With gun violence, we won’t ban guns or restrict access, because such restrictions would be a relinquishment of power.”

Professor Cara Kilgallen of the English department said, “There’s this effort to control a narrative that is not dominant, so banning drag shows is like banning an alternative narrative.”

In 2020, firearm-related injuries became the leading cause of death in people ages 1 to 19 years in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.

NPR reported that on April 15, Kaylin Gillis drove to the wrong New York address and was shot and killed by the homeowner. Ralph Yarl, a Black teenager, was shot by a Missouri homeowner after arriving at the wrong house to pick up his siblings.

“There has been a move away from teaching about imaginative literature. When the Common Core came in, there was an emphasis on non-fiction texts, and we’re not teaching people to understand the distinctions between fiction and reality,” Bryan said. “And they’re all blending together. So people can go in and take people’s lives and almost not realize they’re actually taking people’s lives, because they don’t understand the difference between what is imagined and what is real.”

According to CNN, a shooter in Alabama killed four people at a Sweet 16 party on April 15. At least five people were killed in a shooting on April 10 at a bank in Louisville, KY. This was around the same time that the state’s Republican lawmakers passed a bill that prohibits transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming care.

“State politicians are most strongly motivated to pander to the right groups who will secure their future electoral success,” said senior Liv Delgado, president of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA). “From this standpoint, it becomes much more clear why anti-trans and anti-drag legislation are being proposed across the nation. Every moment wasted on calling into question trans people’s right to exist as their most authentic selves is tax dollars needlessly wasted and less time to address critical topics such as gun reform that could save lives.”

Delgado believes that many people feel outrage about drag performers because of their honest desire to protect children.

“What about the young lives we lose to domestic terrorists wielding assault weapons in schools, workplaces and shopping malls?” Delgado said. “Shouldn’t this be the focus of the GOP’s platform and priorities — to work across the aisle to safeguard the lives of innocent children?”

According to Bryan, there is not one simple solution to these issues. It will take a large effort on many people’s parts.

Kilgallen said, “Something has to change.”

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