‘Seeing it bleed across the border’: B.C. MLA looks to protect drag performers from violence

Vancouver’s MLA wants to combat violence against drag artists and performers after a series of anti-drag protests in B.C. and anti-drag laws popping up across the border.

Vancouver West MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert filed a motion in the legislature on Monday (April 3) “because we’ve seen so much of this, we’ve seen people in communities in British Columbia and throughout North America become a target,” he said.

“Whether it’s in Nelson, Coquitlam — I think Kelowna this weekend — North Vancouver, Duncan, Vancouver, in my own neighborhood on the West Side. Really, the list is too long to go on.”

Just last month, the Nelson Public Library was forced to cancel its drag storytime amid an online backlash against gay and transgender people. An impromptu storytime ended up taking place outside Nelson Town Hall as part of a rally of 2SLGBTQIA+ supporters.

Several US states, including Tennessee, have targeted drag shows. In Tennessee, the word “drag” does not appear in the bill, instead changing the definition of adult cabaret performances in Tennessee law to “adult-oriented performances harmful to minors.” It also states that “male or female impersonators” now fall under topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers and strippers in adult cabaret.

“Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Missouri, Kentucky, Oklahoma — you just keep going,” Chandra Herbert said.

“It seems so absurd that anyone would take issue with that, but I have to say our neighbors to the south seem to have a lot of issues with it and we’re seeing it flow across the border here.”

Ra of Vancouver is one of the presenters of the 2022 Surrey Pride Festival on June 25, 2022 at Central City Plaza. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

However, he said this isn’t the first time the province has seen activism in the drag community, pointing to Ted Norther, who died in 2014. He stood in cross-dress on the courthouse steps and held up a sign that read “I’m alone”. “

“That’s what happened. To be able to be so good in our diversity without other people stepping in to try to humiliate us, try to beat us up and use violence to try to intimidate,” Chandra Herbert said.

Chandra Herbert said he first wore drag in 12th grade, which he calls an achievement.

After Chandra Herbert introduced Proposition 32, 10 other MLAs voted in favor, including North Vancouver – Seymour MLA Susie Chant and Chilliwack – Kent MLA Kelli Paddon.

Chant says she finds it remarkable that “in this day and age, this topic is still one that needs to be reiterated.”

“Violent hate and intimidation shouldn’t exist in our current state, yet it rears its ugly head again in the most benign places – community centers and libraries.”

Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims recalls the 2000s when the Surrey School District was working to ban books featuring same-sex couples.

“I remember those days wondering what could be more harmful to our society as a whole than to start banning books, especially who banning books teach us.”

—File from Associated Press Tyler Harper

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