Drag performers hold emergency meeting in reaction to Florida bill

HB 1423 would ban children from seeing adult live performances

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – An emergency meeting bringing drag entertainers from across the state of Florida after a bill was filed that would prevent children from attending adult-oriented shows.

“The best thing we can do right now is to make ourselves heard,” said Joshua Collins, who rallied people together and helped organize the emergency meeting.

The goal is to organize and educate the LGBTQ and drag community.

Performers, business owners and allies attended the meeting Monday from Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa and other areas.

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“This meeting was basically to get everyone on the same page,” Charilyn Matthews said.

Charilyn Matthews, an entertainer, said emotions are high in the LGBTQ community after the filing of House Bill 1423, titled “Protection of Children.”

It’s a bill filed by State Rep. Randy Fine, which would ban children from seeing adult live performances.

Friday, Fine explained, “What we have is men dressing up like strippers, and somehow, the woke left thinks that’s okay. In Florida, it’s not.”

Matthews disagreed and said the bill mischaracterizes drag and adult live performances. She said the notion that children are at risk is false.

“We are not saying anything to anyone,” Matthews said. “However, if you roll up into a First Baptist Church, they’re telling you how feel. Drag is not about that. Drag is about you finding what part of it that you enjoy and bring the joy out in you.”

During the meeting, one speaker called on entertainers to hold businesses and law enforcement accountable as they talk about the increased threats of drag-related events.

“We need to stop backing down and canceling events when we are doing something perfectly legal and letting them get away with threatening us,” they said.

During the meeting, speakers also shared safety tips while educating people on the bill and how to report threats. Some shared stories of those threats.

Outside of the meeting, News 6 did talk with one Orlando business owner who hosts drag shows at his establishment before the emergency meeting.

“I read into it, and it doesn’t say drag anywhere, but, you know, in my opinion, it is laying the groundwork for something else,” the owner said. He didn’t want to show his face, name or business.

During the interview, News 6 reporter Brian Didlake asked, “When talking with us, do you have a fear of retaliation at all?”

The business owner said, “Yes, not necessarily for me because for me. I am resilient. I’m not doing anything illegal... It’s the people that are calling the bomb threats and death threats that I have to start thinking about the entertainers I employ.”

Equality Florida also reacting to the filing of this bill on Monday.

In a statement, they said:

The business owner said he and other companies will have to make plans or guidelines if this bill moves forward.

“As businesses, I think what we are doing now is that we have to figure these things out because drag has come to the forefront of the last five-to-seven years,” the Orlando business owner said.

Back at the emergency meeting, Matthews is calling on the LGBTQ community and its allies to rally with them.

“People who love the entertainment that we provide, I would hope that they would be ready to stand with us and so that we cannot be swept under the rug,” Matthews said.

Equality Florida and other LGBTQ groups are planning a march in Tallahassee next week called “Pride at the Capitol.” They told News 6 it’s one of many events that can be expected during this legislative session.

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About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.