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'Drag Queen Christmas' show will restrict entry to minors after religious protesters raise objections

GOP lawmaker says drag queen show could violate child pornography laws. LGBT groups call his argument "a gross misinterpretation" of the law.

CHESTERFIELD, Missouri — A prominent Christmas drag show is restricting access to only allow people 18 and older after a local Republican lawmaker asked police to consider shutting it down.

A 'Drag Queen Christmas' is scheduled to perform at The Factory in Chesterfield on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. 

The event, which is part of a national tour, is nearly sold out, according to online ticket sales platforms. Those websites added an 18+ label on Tuesday after conservative religious groups raised objections and organized protests.

Local religious groups circulated a 'Rosary Rally' flier urging protesters to "say no to the homosexual plan to normalize the transsexual and homosexual agenda." 

A phone number listed on the flier rang to a call center in Pennsylvania where a Catholic nonprofit group enlists local chapter leaders to organize protests against drag shows across the country. 

A receptionist said they look for events to show up in online ticket sales platforms and then reach out to recruit protesters to stage demonstrators outside. 

"I just want to tell them, 'Just get a life,'" transgender drag queen Jordan Braxon said. "We're not out here with any kind of gay agenda. We're just trying to provide entertainment."

Braxton, who performs in drag shows for kids and for adults under the stage name Dieta Pepsi, said she and her colleagues know where to draw the line to create a family friendly environment when children are in attendance. 

"As drag performers, we know how to censor ourselves to make sure that we're not offensive to kids," she said. "Kids love it. Drag queens are -- and I don't mean this offensively -- to some kids are just like clowns. We're just funny. They love the makeup. They love the costumes. Some drag performers dress as fairies. It teaches kids tolerance and acceptance at a very young age."

State Senator Bill Eigel, a Weldon Spring Republican exploring a 2024 Republican primary bid for governor, said portions of the national drag queen performance coming to town Wednesday night could technically cross a legal line in the Missouri state law that outlaws child pornography. 

"From what I've seen, this is well beyond the gray area," Eigel said Tuesday afternoon. "This is a highly sexualized production that is inappropriate and really illegal to show to children in the state of Missouri."

Eigel referred to online videos that showed clips from inside a recent drag show where scantily clad performers revealed fake prosthetic body parts and alluded to sexual acts, though they did not engage in intercourse or show full nudity. 

"If children are let in to see this type of material, it would qualify as a violation of the Criminal Code," Eigel said. 

In a letter to Chesterfield's mayor, Eigel urged the police department to shut down the production if they did not add an age restriction.

"My letter was just a reminder to the mayor that he needs to enforce the law or ensure that the businesses in his area are following law," he said.

"Sometimes a little bit of public pressure goes a long way," Eigel said. "I think we've gotten a victory here."

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer (LGBTQ) advocates condemned Eigel's characterization as "a gross misinterpretation of the statute."

"Senator Eigel is trying to appeal to his base and to fearmonger by representing what is billed as a family friendly Christmas holiday show as pornographic," PROMO Executive Director Katy Erker-Lynch said. "He really is just trying to build fear and be divisive during the holiday season when we're trying to come together and be with family and friends."

Missouri state law prohibits "promoting obscenity in the second degree," which carries criminal penalties of a misdemeanor or a low-level felony for repeat offenders. 

If police were ever to recommend charges at a drag show and a prosecutor took the case to court, that same Missouri state law would allow the defendants to admit evidence into the court record demonstrating the "artistic value of the performance," and would allow the creator of the content and the promoter of the event to testify about their intent in court. 

The law's definition of "sexual conduct" includes "simulated acts of apparent sexual stimulation or gratification," which Eigel argues could apply to acts filmed on stage at the 'Drag Queen Christmas' shows in other cities where performers embraced each other and engaged in thrusting motions.  

However, Missouri's legal definition of "obscene" applies a vague standard subjective to shifting sentiment and public opinion. 

The law defines something as "obscene" only if:

"The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find the material depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way," and if "a reasonable person would find the material lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value."

LGBTQ advocates defended their right to express art in entertainment and defended the right of parents to make decisions and exercise discretion in their children's lives.

"They always preach free speech except when it comes to something they don't agree with," Braxton said. 

"If you don't want to go to a Christmas or holiday drag show, don't go," Erker-Lynch said. "You don't have to.

"There's a very well-organized movement to label the LGBTQ+ community as groomers, to label us as a threat to family and to society," she said. "And the benefit that folks are getting from that is votes." 

She said drag performances come in many shapes and sizes. She described family-friendly drag shows as performances with "lightness and levity," and referred to famous actors like Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, and Dustin Hoffman who have dressed in drag in famous films.

"I'm so tired of people using drag queens and trans people and people in the LGBTQIA community as political pawns," Braxton said. "We are not subjects or issues. We are human beings. I think people forget that."

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