We’ve all seen the memes of Flip Wilson, Bob Hope with Milton Berle, Corporal Klinger, and scores of other actors performing in drag. Did you see the movie Tootsie starring Dustin Hoffman? If you’re a fan of Saturday Night Live, you might remember Pat from the early 1990s. Pat was played by Julia Sweeney, and was known as the “androgynous fictional character.” Androgynous means having both male and female characteristics. The skit involving Pat always had others attempting to discern her gender. Why was it funny then, but not so funny now?
Even I have “dressed” in drag. Yes, I had a part in a humorous skit to raise money for a Catholic high school. I was damn good, too! My performance brought forth an encore presentation a few months later at a community fundraising dinner. I had borrowed a dress and high heel shoes from my mother-in-law, as well as a few other accessories. A young woman applied makeup and told me I had very nice high cheekbones and could perform as a woman in anything. I couldn’t believe how at ease I felt walking in high heeled shoes, but I was awesome. The crowd came to its feet as I exited the gymnasium with my parade wave and faux kisses. Believe it or not, there were children in the audience.
State Senator Sandy Salmon (no alliteration intended) (R-Janesville) introduced a bill, Senate File 348, in the Iowa Legislature that would make it a simple misdemeanor to bring a person under the age of eighteen to a performance where “the main aspect of the performance is a performer who exhibits a gender identity that is different that the performer’s gender assigned at birth through the use of clothing, makeup, accessories, or other gender signifiers.” The legislation also defines the crime as the performer lip-syncing, dancing, reading, or otherwise performing before an audience for entertainment, “whether or not performed for payment.”
If you live in Iowa, don’t be afraid that this bill will pass this year. However, there is a nonprofit group, Protect My Innocence, that is lobbying for passage of this legislation. It’s difficult to believe that a bill as vague as this could make it through the legislative process without several constitutional scholars recognizing that the bill is loaded with constitutional problems.
This proposed measure is not meant to insult drag queens only, it also applies to drag kings. You may think that you’ve never witnessed a drag king, but think back to Lucy and Ethel, Carol Burnett, and even recently, Reba dressed as Colonel Sanders.
Knowing the religious tenets of some Iowa Legislators, I can safely guess that this fear of cross-dressing comes from the Bible. In the Book Deuteronomy, another commandment, not one of the Ten Big ones, is written in which there “shall not be an article of a man upon a woman, and a man shall not put on a wrapper of a woman, because everyone who does these things is an abomination unto the Lord your God.” I wonder just how many abominations there are in the Old Testament.
I attended a conference in Santa Fe, NM, in the mid-1990s where I saw a man in a dress. He was wearing a beard. Although I didn’t speak with him, I did find out from one of the people within his group that he was heterosexual. This concept does not ride well with people who fear that they cannot explain such a contrast with what they believe to be normal. I knew at an early age that most cross-dressers are heterosexual. I read it in Dear Abby, medical research, and encyclopedias.
It is my opinion that we fear that which we cannot understand or know.
I do believe that it is fear that produces a strong urge to protect minors from seeing people entertaining in a setting outside of their pronounced gender. It’s been going on since the stone age. But prescribed history is another subject – literally!
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