Amid some truly ominous uncertainty about anti-drag legislation in Florida, Orlando drag event the Miss Rose Dynasty Pageant has been relocated from Orlando to Kissimmee mere days before it was set to take place.
Event organizers the Rose Dynasty Foundation — a Lakeland-based nonprofit that mentors area LGBTQ students — scrambled to move the fundraising show from its original site, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, to Kissimmee’s Wyndham Orlando Resort. This process has involved the Foundation refunding tickets purchased for the Dr. Phillips Center and then contacting those same ticket-buyers to buy their tickets a second time for the Wyndham.
The Miss Rose Dynasty Pageant, intended to be a family-friendly, all-ages event, had an 18+ age limit for attendees placed on it by the Dr. Phillips Center. And though all of the drag performers set for the event were adults, a large number of the students assisted by the organization — some of whom would be performing a song-and-dance number (and no, they would not be performing in drag, for all you hate-clickers out there) — were thus effectively barred from attending.
Though the Foundation doesn’t fault the Dr. Phillips Center’s decision, a degree of frustration with the situation was palpable.
“Our vision and mission and purpose is all of our events are family-friendly,” said event organizer Jason DeShazo to the Orlando Sentinel. “There are children in this show, and I’m not telling them they can’t come.”
Frustration was palpable on all sides, in fact.
“We have not received any clarification on the Florida statutes in question,” said Dr. Phillips Center spokesperson Jacklyne Ramos to the Sentinel, describing calls made to four different state agencies that yielded zero concrete answers. Ramos added that the Dr. Phil looks forward to hosting the pageant in the future.
Pageant organizers were given two options: Impose an 18+ age restriction on attendees or to postpone the event. They decided that “an age restriction would go against our mission, vision and work we do … to provide a safe space for all ages in our events.” And so they chose to relocate. The show will go on, just not at the Dr. Phillips Center, and not in Orlando — the pageant’s home for the last two years. (Think about that for a moment.)
How did we get to this point? Well, increasing concerns and hesitations on the part of venues about hosting drag events (all-ages and otherwise) stems from Orlando venue the Plaza Live in February being threatened with the loss of its liquor license from Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation for hosting the all-ages Drag Queen Christmas touring show last year.
As part of DeSantis’ trumped-up campaign against drag, the DBPR filed a complaint in early February against the Milk District venue for hosting the so-called “sexually explicit” drag show that minors were allowed to attend back in late December. This particular situation is still ongoing.
And there is even more bleak anti-drag nonsense on the way, courtesy of our Florida Legislature (instead of spending time on, say, rent control). Legislation filed by Sen. Yarborough and Rep. Fine would give the state Division of Hotels and Restaurants of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation the authority to “fine, suspend, or revoke the license of any public lodging establishment or public food service establishment if the establishment admits a child to an adult live performance.” That fine could be up to $5,000 for a first offense, and $10,000 for a second or subsequent offense.
And while the phrase “adult live performance” is vague on its face, the bill’s language goes into painstaking detail as to what exactly this refers to. The laundry list includes “any show, exhibition, or other presentation in front of a live audience which, in whole or in part, depicts or simulates nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, specific sexual activities … lewd conduct, or the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”
The language of the bill is broad enough to cover drag shows, a GWAR concert or even a halftime performance by cheerleaders at a big-league sporting event where children are in the stands and drinks are in people’s hands. Who’s to say what’s “shameful” and of “morbid interest” (actual words used in this bill)?
The legislation is officially, and eye-rollingly, titled “The Protection of Children.” Similar legislation is either in the works or has already been passed in states like Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee.
And because all of this is in fact, connected, Republican bill sponsors on Friday also filed legislation that would, among other things, ban medical gender-affirming care, such as puberty blockers, for trans and nonbinary youth, as well as largely block people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates.
Stay alert and pay attention, even though it’s utterly exhausting to keep up with the zone-flooding — there is a lot of frankly terrifying legislation coming out of the Florida state government recently that are little more than attacks on marginalized communities in the state.
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