By Sara Atencio-Gonzales
Despite attacks by conservative politicians and efforts to restrict or ban their performances nationwide, drag performers in Albuquerque continue to pursue their art.
Tennessee recently passed legislation restricting “adult cabaret shows” in public or in the presence of children, and banned them from occurring within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks or places of worship.
The move is a “subtle and sinister way to further criminalize just being trans,” a Tennessee spokesman for the ACLU told NPR.
Lawmakers in other states are proposing similar bills. Albuquerque performers say these attacks are misguided and cruel.
“This is an attempt from right-wing activists to distract attention from the other things they’re doing,” says Marshall Martinez, the executive director of Equality of New Mexico.
“They started to create this narrative that drag queens, trans people and queer people as a whole are dangerous to children,” he says. “And they’re using that narrative to push bands on drag shows or dragging public places or children attending them.”
“And these are the same folks that are pushing bands on gender-affirming health care, are working to repeal their state’s nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people in the workplace,” Martinez says.
Drag queens and kings are concerned
“I don’t think a lot of people are realizing what this is going to lead to,” says Trey C. Michaels, an Albuquerque drag king. “I fear that we’re gonna see cops showing up… to arrest to drag people and not just drag people, they’re also going to start arresting trans folks.”
But for now New Mexico’s drag scene remains lively and welcoming to everyone.
Although it’s a small community, that means the performers all know each other and have formed strong bonds, says Martinez, whose drag name is Larhya Daniels.
“Even during the middle of pageants I’ve seen people competing against each other and they’re like, ‘Hey, hold up…why don’t you try this gown?” Michaels says. The community feels like family to him.
In New Mexico, drag performances aren’t limited to late nights at LGBTQ-friendly bars. Albuquerque has a long tradition of drag brunches, bingo games and other (relatively) family-friendly events.