Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R) has recently signed a bill that prohibits drag story hours, a cherished activity involving drag performers reading books about love and acceptance to children, from taking place in the state. This bill, known as H.B. 359, is the first of its kind in the country to explicitly ban drag performers from engaging in this educational and entertaining event for kids.
H.B. 359 not only prohibits drag story hours in public schools and libraries, but it also declares that no “sexually oriented or obscene performances” can be held in public spaces where children are present. Critics argue that this language is being used as a euphemism to target all forms of drag entertainment. The bill stands out from similar bans in other states as it specifically mentions drag story hours and explicitly acknowledges and bans both drag queens and drag kings from reading in front of children. It even goes so far as to define drag performers as individuals who adopt flamboyant or parodic personas, characterized by glamorous costumes and exaggerated makeup.
Advocates for LGBTQ rights find it perplexing that flamboyant costumes would be deemed inappropriate for children, as they are not inherently “sexually oriented or obscene.” State Representative Braxton Mitchell (R), the sponsor of the bill, has defended the measure, emphasizing the need to “let kids be kids.” However, opponents of the bill argue that the definitions of drag provided are vague and fear that it could have broader implications, potentially leading to bans on certain theater performances.
This recent move follows Governor Gianforte’s approval of S.B. 458, a bill that legally negates the identities of transgender and nonbinary individuals. The law stipulates that a person’s sex can only be classified as male or female, determined solely by gamete size and chromosomes. It further asserts that one’s sex cannot be changed and dismisses the importance of an individual’s subjective experience of gender. Notably, the Governor signed this bill despite pleas from his own nonbinary and gay son, David Gianforte, who urged him to reconsider.
In April, Governor Gianforte also signed S.B. 99, a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors. The law prohibits reversible puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, treatments that have been proven to be life-saving for transgender youth.
As Montana’s ban on drag story hours takes effect, it has sparked a contentious debate over LGBTQ inclusivity and the rights of individuals to express their gender identity freely. Advocates and opponents continue to grapple with the implications of these legislative actions, questioning their impact on the broader LGBTQ community and the future of acceptance and diversity in the state.