OPINION: The power of visibility: why drag shows and LGBTQ+ representation matter now more than ever

by Kurt Thigpen | Ace Studios
Friday, 31 March 2023 09:27 GMT

A transgender drag queen gets ready for her show at The Stranger bar in Silom district in Bangkok, Thailand, September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Anti-LGBTQ+ laws, actions, and policies are rooted in a deep-seated fear and hatred of those who are different

Kurt Thigpen is a former school board member in Washoe County in the U.S. state of Nevada. He is also the chief executive of Ace Studios, a creative marketing company with a focus on creating social impacts in the world.

As an openly gay person in today's world, I've seen firsthand the impact of the recent wave of anti-LGBTQ+ laws being proposed and enacted across the United States. It's distressing to see that in 2023, there are still those who seek to erase the very existence of LGBTQ+ people and deny us the basic human right to love who we choose and live our lives authentically and in the open.

The recent national surge of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is not only discriminatory, it is also incredibly dangerous. It fuels a climate of fear and hatred that can (and has) led to violence and even hate crimes against our community. Everyone, no matter your religion or beliefs, has a fundamental and legal right to safety and security in this country.

Take, for example, the "Don't Say Gay" laws that prohibit the mention of LGBTQ+ relationships or identity in schools. These laws not only erase our experiences; they also create an environment of shame and silence around LGBTQ+ issues, making it even harder for young people to come to terms with their own identities and find support from their peers and educators.

Similarly, the banning of books that feature LGBTQ+ characters or themes is a blatant attempt to erase our experiences and prevent young people from seeing themselves represented in literature. This not only deprives LGBTQ+ students of the chance to see themselves reflected in the world around them, but also sends a message that our stories are not valid or worthy of being told.

And then there are the recent efforts to criminalize drag shows and other forms of LGBTQ+ expression in places like Tennessee. This is a clear attempt to police gender expression and to deny American citizens the right to express ourselves in ways that feel authentic and true to our identities.

All of these anti-LGBTQ+ laws, actions, and policies are rooted in a deep-seated fear and hatred of those who are different, of those who do not fit neatly into society's narrow definition of what is "normal" or "acceptable". And they are all part of a larger effort to roll back the gains that we have made over the past few decades, to push us back into the shadows and deny us the rights and freedoms that we have fought so hard to achieve.

But we cannot let this happen. We must speak out against these laws and policies, we must stand up for the rights of LGBTQ+ people everywhere, and we must fight for a world where everyone is free to love who they choose, express themselves in the ways that feel most authentic to them, and be proud of who they are.

We cannot let fear and ignorance win. We must show the world that drag queens and LGBTQ+ people are not the enemy - hate and ignorance are. Together, we can create a world where love, acceptance, and inclusion are the norm, not the exception.

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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