Assclown Alert is a column of opinion, analysis and snark.
Recent online threats against a San Antonio venue that occasionally stages drag shows and this week's protest by an armed group the FBI calls an "extremist militia" outside a drag show at the Aztec Theatre didn't occur in a vacuum. And, sadly, they likely won't be the last targeting LGBTQ+ Texans and drag performers.
Republican Texas lawmakers have spent years assailing LGBTQ+ Texans — particularly transgender people — with proposals to keep them out of public restrooms, stop them from obtaining gender-affirming care and playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity. Indeed, by some counts there were more anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed in the Texas Legislature during the 2021 session than anywhere else in the country.
Now, following the lead of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott who, in the runup to midterms, ordered state investigations of families who allow their children to obtain gender-affirming care, those same GOP lawmakers are at it again.
Ahead of the 2023 session, State Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, filed a bill to classify any venue that hosts a drag performance as a sexually oriented business. That means minors would be permanently barred and the business owner would face a steep increase in state taxes — never mind whether it's a café that hosts occasional drag brunches or an inclusive, all-ages performance space for which drag shows are a sideline.
Sadly, we can only assume more Republican legislators will seize on the far-right's recent obsession with drag shows and file similar legislation as the session grows closer. Such proposals fly in the face of the laughable claim that their party is the one that stands for smaller government and greater personal liberties.
However, the most pathetic thing about the GOP's targeting of LGBTQ+ Texans is that it has real implications. The continued onslaught of anti-trans legislation and rhetoric has harmed the mental health of the state's transgender population, LGBTQ+ advocates maintain. What's more, families caught in Abbott's cruel dragnet targeting transgender kids have been subjected to humiliating investigations and forced to lawyer up to defend themselves.
Now, with rising threats against drag shows, these assclowns have shown that they're willing to put people's lives at risk to pander for votes from the most extreme and unhinged members of their base.