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'We bloom': Aggies weather pending laws, host annual Draggieland event

RuPaul's Drag Race finalist Mistress Isabelle Brooks of Houston, Texas was also in attendance
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Posted at 1:36 PM, Apr 12, 2023

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — As the rain poured outside Rudder Theatre, uncertainty loomed over this year's Draggieland.

Draggieland, a drag pageant dedicated to showcasing drag performers from across Texas, has been run by Aggies since 2020.

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Drag performers from across Texas embodied the night's runway category: 'We bloom"

Now, during this year’s legislative session, Equality Texas has identified over 130 bills directly related to LGBTQ rights in the state of Texas.

Two bills drafted by Republican Sen. Bryan Hughes, Senate Bills 12 and 1601, look to specifically legislate drag performance.

A third, Senate Bill 1702, looks to restrict a teacher's ability to discuss any LGBTQ+ topics and host related events.

Under this bill, Texas teachers would need the approval of a "health advisory council," appointed by the school's governing body.

For Aggie undergrads like Bean Flack, making it out to Draggieland despite the political climate is more than recreationally enjoying drag acts, it’s an act of solidarity.

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For Aggies like Bean Flack, making it out to Draggieland is more than simply enjoying the act of drag, it's an act of solidarity.

“I felt like this really shows our support, that there are people going, that there are people who want the tickets and that are excited to participate.”

For conservatives like Kelly Niedert, founder of Protect Texas Kids, “Bringing children around sexual content is a targeted assault on their minds and bodies that should never be tolerated in a civilized society.”

Niedert's words align with the goals of SB 12, which seeks to ban “sexually oriented” drag performances in front of children, according to Republicans.

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Drag performer Alania C. Chanel performs a tribute to her drag family, including her drag mother, 'Coco Chanel' who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Businesses hosting drag shows considered to be “sexually oriented” now face a $10,000 fine.

The drag performers face a Class A misdemeanor which could result in a year in jail, a $4,000 fine, or both.

The bill has since become a top priority for Gov. Dan Patrick, with the GOP leader saying in part, “Children, who cannot make decisions on their own, must be protected from these sexually-oriented drag shows…”

Every Texas Republican in the chamber voted in approval of SB 12 - including a Democrat from Dallas, Senator Royce West.

Meanwhile, similar legislation like SB 1601 extends into state library funds, making it so literacy events such as “drag time story hour” could result in the library losing its funds.

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For librarians like Chance Medlin, the 88th Texas Legislative Session can have a direct impact on their ability to host events like "drag time story hour."

For Chance Medlin, a librarian at Texas A&M University who also goes by 'Chance the librarian', he said this climate has not dampened his outlook on the future of drag in the Brazos Valley."

“I know there's been some protests, but also, it’s been beautiful to see a much larger counter-protest of support,” Medlin said.

“Making sure that folks in the community do feel supported here at Texas A&M and I know there’s a ton of allies across Aggieland that are here to support them.”

The night’s theme despite the literal and legislative downpour outside… “We bloom.”

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This year, nine contestants from across Texas competed at this year's Draggieland, the night's theme, 'We Bloom.'

As nine drag performers from across Texas competed for this year’s title, an event similar to Draggieland was canceled in March at West Texas A&M.

Canceled by the University President Walter Wender, the school leader argued that such performances degrade women and are “divisive and demoralizing misogyny.”

A decision student leaders like Tyler Corazao said could be felt across the university’s system, including at Texas A&M.

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Tyler Corazao, oSTEM chapter president at Texas A&M said the move to ban drag across the university's campuses is "disheartening."

“It definitely is very disheartening to see so many campuses in the US, including some so close to home and some part of our university system, removing this space of self-expression.” Corazao, oSTEM chapter president at Texas A&M University said.

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RuPaul's Drag Race finalist Mistress Isabelle Brooks of Houston, Texas was also in attendance.

Back in 2019, Texas passed Senate Bill 18 with bipartisan support, a bill that requires universities to allow any person to engage in free-speech activities on campus.

Now, two student leaders have filed a lawsuit against Wender, saying he violated their first amendment right to freedom of speech.

It’s reported that 72 percent of Texans support anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, according to a survey released in 2021 by the Public Religion Research Institute.

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In the end, drag performer Rachael Adonis would take this year's Aggieland crown after performing 'Bang Bang' by Lady Gaga

As the night came to a close with Rachel Adonis taking the crown, KRHD had the opportunity to speak with Nirvana Piranha, the co-host of the event, at Halo in Bryan.

"If this was truly about protecting children and youth, we wouldn't be taking away trans rights, we would be doing more," Piranha said.

One example of these laws is Senate Bill 162, which would restrict how Texans can update their gender on birth certificates.

A law trans advocates say could restrict how trans and non-binary Texans can enroll in public schools, travel and seek employment.

It’s reported that about 29,800 trans youth and 92,900 trans adults live in Texas, according to estimates released by UCLA’s School of Law Williams Institute.

The bill has since been passed by the Senate and referred to the public health committee for further discussion.

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Drag Performer Nirvana Piranha discusses pending legislation impacting not only the Brazos Valley drag scene, but the state of Texas.

“Same thing with gender-affirming care,” Piranha said.

“If you don't want that for your child and you wouldn't do that for your child, that's totally fine, but you don't get to dictate what other people do with their children, that's very reprehensible.”

Another top priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, SB 14 looks to ban transition-related care for all transgender children, including those already receiving treatment with their parent's approval.

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The night's top 3 contestants, Alania C. Chanel, Shelby Fine and Rachel Adonis embrace one last time onstage.

Meanwhile, in a study conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Texas ranked 45th in overall child well-being in the country.

The study also found that over 1.4 million children across Texas live in poverty.

Senate Bills 12, 14 and 1601 now move onto the House for a vote.

The 88th legislative session began on Jan 10. and is set to last until May 29.