The United States of America is slowly becoming more and more dangerous for LGBTQ people. With Tennessee now making it illegal to perform drag on public property and allowing government officials to refuse marriages based on their religious morals, it was only a matter of time before another Republican state took notice.
Steve Toth, Republican Texas State Rep since 2019, has just filed a piece of legislation that will allow anyone to report and sue Drag Performers, and Trans individuals, for existing in the presence of a minor – whether parental consent is there or not.
The legislation states that this only affects people who
“exhibits a gender that is different than the performer’s gender recorded at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs in a lascivious manner before an audience.”
The bill explains that lascivious directly means “conduct of a sexual nature that is offensive to community standards of decency.” However, as most of us know, the conduct of a sexual nature can mean anything. And women will know this more so, that wearing a fitted shirt can be considered “sexual clothing” even if it’s long-sleeved…
Who is Steve Toth?
Steve Hixson Toth is a businessman and politician serving as a Texas House of Reps member from District 15. Born in New York, he attended Rochester Bible College.
He wrote the Firearms Protection Act (HB 1076), which would’ve restricted federal control and regulations of firearms and made it a Class A misdemeanour to interfere with a Texan’s second amendment rights – thankfully, this was never approved at the senate. Therefore it never became law.
In May 2020, he ignored lockdown orders to get a haircut during a pandemic that affected over 8 million Texans and killed over 90,000.
In 2022, Toth authored another Anti-Trans legislation (HB 41) which will prohibit healthcare professionals from getting liability insurance coverage to protect them while treating children for gender dysphoria, transitioning, and reassignment. This legislation is currently not a law but is going through the process and may come into law on September 1st, 2023.
But it doesn’t stop there. Under this legislation, they will be able to sue for damages – “actual damages, including damages for psychological, emotional, economic, and physical harm” – for up to 10 years from the date of the performance. In addition, the claimant’s “attorney’s fees [reasonable] and costs incurred in bringing the action”will also be covered, and they will also receive “statutory damages of $5,000.”
Defences are in place for those affected by the law, but they won’t be enough.
The defences are that the “defendant” believed the minor was of a reasonable age (over 18) or that the minor provided ID that looked real. However, it is not a defence that a parent or guardian allowed the minor to attend, or attended with the minor.
Effectively, a trans person or drag performer will now risk being sued for damages due to a minor being in their general vicinity; and parents are no longer allowed to judge whether their child is allowed to watch a specific show.
So, to explain simply, the problems with this are as follows:
- While the legislation suggests that this is only for Drag Performers, it does not offer any protection for Trans people who are misjudged as Drag performers. Therefore, this is a threat to Trans and Gender Variant people as well as professional performers.
- Trans people and Drag performers are regularly sexualised for simply existing.
- Trans people and Drag performers can be sued for an event that occurred a decade ago (there is no information on whether or not the claim can be backdated to 2013, as this was not stated within the legislation filed).
- Parents are no longer allowed to be the judge of the content their child watches – when it’s Trans or Drag related.
This piece of legislation has been filed. It is not yet law, and still has to go through the House, Senate, and the Governor before it is officially signed in. If it is approved, which I have an uncomfortable feeling that it will be without action now, it will come into effect on September 1st, 2023.
If you’re in Texas, please contact your representatives and let them know that this is infringing on your constitution. Freedom of Speech includes Freedom of Expression – and that covers the expression of gender, too. Nobody should be allowed to sue an individual for how they dress while dancing or lip-syncing. Drag performances are not inherently sexual and wearing clothes that do not match your assigned gender is not a crime against children.
What is a crime against children is physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that children regularly experience at the hands of people they know – their families, friends, and religious leaders. Not Drag performers and Trans people. This isn’t about protecting children. This is about limiting the “promotion” of a lifestyle they don’t like.
1988 Britain called; they want their Section 28 back.
If you’d like to read the legislation, it is HB 4378.
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